The Euphrates is the longest river in western Asia. It’s also one of the most historically important rivers in the world. Together with the Tigris River, the Euphrates forms the boundary around Mesopotamia before dumping its waters into the Persian Gulf. It runs through Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria and is today economically and ecologically vital to the people and animals of those countries.
Here, we’ll learn more about the largest fish in the Euphrates River. We’ll discover just how big these fish grow, what they look like, and what they eat. We’ll also learn about their usefulness to humans, whether they’re important food fish or if they appeal more to sport fishers.
The Largest Fish in the Euphrates River: Mangar
The mangar is the largest fish in the Euphrates River, and it’s one of the largest freshwater fish anywhere in the world.
Mangars are known as the largest fish in the Euphrates River for a reason. They can grow over seven feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. Historically, they’ve remained important to humans for various reasons, including as popular targets of sports fishermen. Since the Euphrates River is one of the most important rivers in human history, it’s no surprise that mangars have always been important fish.
Like wels catfish and goonch catfish, mangars grow to incredible proportions. These fish are known to grow over seven feet long, with some of the largest specimens reaching 7.5 feet. But, for all that length, the largest fish in the Euphrates River is no string bean. These magnificent fish can weigh over 300 pounds and offer plenty of resistance for any serious angler. They’re members of the cyprinid family of fish, along with carp and giant barbs. However, few mangars reach such epic proportions, with most topping out around five feet long.
Mangars have no teeth. Rather, their mouths operate by sucking prey, like small fish, zooplankton, and occasionally birds, into their jaws and swallowing them whole. Their heads are smooth, with large, round eyes. Just behind the head, the body angles sharply upwards to a flattened dorsal fin midway down the back. Their tails have two pronounced fins, and they look very similar in appearance to pike, trout, and salmon. Mangars are typically goldish or silver in appearance, with lighter-colored bellies.
Mangar: Habitat and Range
The largest fish in the Euphrates River are endemic only to that and the Tigris River, which share a drainage basin. They can be found in all of the river’s attached lakes and reservoirs. Adults typically favor larger bodies of water, moving into slow-moving parts of the river to spawn. Like other fish of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, mangars are present only in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.
Are Mangars Endangered?
Though the largest fish in the Euphrates River have been around for as long as humans have been living alongside the river, their existence is currently in peril. Mangar fish have long served as important food fish for the people of Mesopotamia and the Middle East. But, due to overfishing and pollution, their numbers have declined enough that they are now listed as Vulnerable to extinction.
Because mangars are highly migratory and depend on free movement to spawn new fish, the introduction of dams to the Euphrates River system has likely had negative consequences on their population. Today, various scientists are exploring ways in which mangar populations might be restored, as these fish are extremely important to the health of the Euphrates River.
What Other Fish Live in the Euphrates River?
Mangars might be the largest fish in the Euphrates River, but they’re certainly not the only fish in the water. Mangars depend on the presence of smaller fish for food, which includes other types of carp, catfish, and even spiny eels. Another large fish living in the Euphrates is the barbel, which can reach 300 pounds in weight. There are also several types of saltwater fish known to frequent the river, including sea bream, gar, and anchovies.
Are Mangars Dangerous to Humans?
Large freshwater fish can sometimes lead to stories of human drownings, though verified cases of this are few. One of the most notorious freshwater killers isn’t a freshwater fish at all—it’s the saltwater bull shark. Bull sharks are capable of swimming, and attacking, in freshwater. But luckily for dwellers of Mesopotamia, the largest fish in the Euphrates River, the mangar, presents no danger to humans. Mangars eat only small fish, and they have no teeth, which means they couldn’t attack a human even if they wanted to, despite their great size.
Historical and Religious Importance of Mangars
It might seem strange to think of the largest fish in the Euphrates River in a religious context, but the mangar has an interesting history. Mentioned as early as 2,600 BC, the mangar, or, at least, its skin, seems to have served a religious purpose. Depictions of Assyrian holy men wearing the skin of the mangar have been uncovered, dating back to between 1,000-1,500 BC. That’s right—the mangar is big enough that people can actually climb inside their skins.
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