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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus)

Atlantic Sturgeon
Acipenser oxyrinchus (Mitchill, 1815)

Range: Atlantic Coast of Canada and United States
Habitat: Coastal Waters, Estuaries, Rivers
Diet: Crustaceans, Worms, Mollusks
Social Grouping: May congregate during migrations, at food sources
Reproduction: Reproductive maturity dependent on body size (fish breed based on when they reach a certain size, not a certain age), spawning begins in spring, traveling into rivers to lay up to 8 million eggs.  Males breed every 1-5 years, females every 2-5 years
Lifespan: 60 Years
Conservation: IUCN Near Threatened, CITES Appendix II

  • Body length up to 4.3 meters, weigh up to 370 kilograms
  • Dorsal (back) surface is blue-black or olive-brown, while ventral (belly) side is white.  The back is covered with five major rows of hard scales.  Heavy cylindrical body with an elongated, pointy snout
  • Anadromous - meaning that adults spawn in freshwater, but spend most of their lives in saltwater (likely that cold, clean freshwater is needed for larval development)
  • Sturgeon are occasionally seen breaching (jumping out of the water) - the reason why is unknown, but it may be an attempt to ride themselves of parasites
  • Two subspecies: A. o. oxyrinchus (Atlantic) and A. o. desotoi (Gulf of Mexico)
  • Historically have been threatened by overfishing, largely for meat, roe (caviar), and oil, as well as habitat degradation through pollution, dredging, or dam construction.  
  • US Atlantic sturgeon fisheries have been closed since 1997; fishing is regulated but allowed in Canada.  Sometimes accidentally captured by fishermen targeting other species

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