If you’ve ever had a chance to look into the eyes of a sturgeon, there are unfathomable depths there that take you back millennia, they take you back ages and ages ago. And having looked into the eyes of a sturgeon, you can fully understand that these animals swam practically unchanged from the way they are today when dinosaurs walked the earth.
~Christopher Letts interview, "Sturgeon: Ancient Survivors of the Deep", ©2011 Earthwave Society
A one-hour public television documentary
Hosted by James Drury
Theme Music by Timothy Drury Keyboard/Vocalist For The Eagles
"Our other interest in the lake sturgeon actually relates to its being what we call an aquatic bald eagle. People who are interested in wildlife, and are interested in endangered species can focus on the bald eagle, and from that begin to understand all the social and biological issues that go along with that. There’s never been a bald eagle for aquatic systems, and we think for Lake Erie, that the lake sturgeon is a good one. And so we’re wanting to arouse people’s interest not only in the lake sturgeon as an endangered species, but also the lake sturgeon as a symbol of Lake Erie; what Lake Erie has been in the past, and what Lake Erie can become." ~Dave Ross, Endangered Species Coordinator, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, ©2011 Earthwave Society
To view this segment of Dave Ross' interview click on the Sturgeon Gallery in the right margin.
All photos are protected by U.S. and International copyright ©2011 Earthwave Society
Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
Sturgeons have a siphon-like mouth which
acts like a vacuum for sucking up worms,
insects, crustaceans and fish from the bottom.
Sturgeons migrate up river to spawn. Some species are anadromous while others spend their lives in freshwater.
Sturgeons have a heterocercal tail
much like that of sharks.
Sturgeons have several lengthwise
rows of bony plates called scutes.
Visit the World Sturgeon Conservation Society e.V.
Mission statement of W.S.C.S.: "The intent of the Society is to act as an international forum of scientific discussion for all those interested in pertinent issues on sturgeons, while at the same time seeking opportunities for close cooperation at an international level."
North American Sturgeon
Sturgeon are an ancestral species that date back to the Cretaceous period nearly 136 million years ago. Records from the early to late 1800s indicate a wide spread abundance throughout the Northern Hemisphere. There are 26 known species of sturgeons worldwide, 8 of which are endemic to North America. Some species are anadromous in that they ascend rivers from the sea to spawn while others remain in freshwater throughout their lifetime.
The 8 North American species are:
(Click the Sturgeon Gallery link in the right margin to see a video excerpt on 7 of the 8 North American species with distribution maps)
Sturgeons are long lived with an average lifespan of 50 to 60 years, but some individuals have lived to be over 100. They are sexually late maturing, and are often 15 to 20 years old before they have their first spawn. Even then, they don’t spawn every year. Sturgeons require exacting conditions for spawning, including the proper photo period in Spring, clean water with shallow rock or gravel substrate for the eggs to adhere, and the proper water temperature and flow to oxygenation the eggs. If the required conditions are not met, spawning will not occur.
Sturgeon eggs are very sticky, and will adhere to rock and gravel substrate, debris, and aquatic vegetation. Proper water flow and temperature are crucial to the overall development of healthy, viable embryos. Water flow helps keep the eggs on the bottom, provides oxygen during incubation, and helps prevent fungus growth. Water temperature influences the length of time for incubation, which usually takes 5 to 7 days.
When the eggs hatch, the emerging fry are carried downstream by the river current into quieter waters. It is in these backwater areas that they will spend their first year of life feeding on insect larvae, and crustacea. They typically grow 7 to 8 inches in the first year, and will migrate back into the river where the currents are swift, and free flowing.
Sturgeons are opportunistic bottom feeders. One of their most distinctive characteristics is their siphon-like mouth which acts like a vacuum for sucking up worms, insects, crustaceans and fish from the bottom.
Sturgeons have distinctive characteristics which vary slightly from species to species. They have four large barbels that dangle just in front of the mouth. The barbels are believed to be sensory organs for locating food on the bottom of a sea, lake, or other body of water. Their skeleton is almost entirely cartilagenous. They have a heterocercal tail, much like that of sharks. They do not have scales, rather their bodies are covered with several lengthwise rows of bony plates called scutes. Scutes have been found at archaelogical sites, and are thought to have been used by ancient peoples and Native Americans for tools and ornamentation.
*Shortnose sturgeon in the Hudson River have made a remarkable recovery as a result of their protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Hudson River population is now under consideration for de-listing. Unfortunately, that isn't the case with the majority of shortnose sturgeon populations throughout their range.
**As a species, white sturgeon are not endangered, however, there is an isolated population in the Kootenai River that was listed as Endangered (ESA) in 1994.
All sturgeon are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The CITES treaty has been in effect since 1975, and is implemented through the United States' Endangered Species Act (ESA), and Canada's Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).