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Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrhinchus


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Atlantic Sturgeon
credit: Duane Rave

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Family: Acipenseridae, Sturgeons view all from this family

Description The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) is a member of the Acipenseridae family and is among one of the oldest fish species in the world. Its range extends from New Brunswick, Canada to the eastern coast of Florida. It was in great abundance when the first settlers came to America, but has since declined due to overfishing and water pollution. It is considered threatened, endangered and even extinct in much of its original habitats. The fish can reach sixty years of age, fifteen feet (4.6 m) in length and over eight hundred pounds (360 kg) in weight.

Rather than having true scales, the Atlantic sturgeon has five rows of bony plates known as scutes. Specimens weighing over eight hundred pounds and nearly fifteen feet in length have been recorded, but they typically grow to be six to eight feet (1.8–2.4 m) and no more than three hundred pounds (140 kg). Its coloration ranges from bluish-black and olive green on its back to white on its underside. It has a longer snout than other sturgeons and has four barbels at the side of its mouth.

Endangered Status The Gulf Sturgeon, a subspecies of the Atlantic Sturgeon, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered throughout its range in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Overfishing and changes to habitat (brought about by many factors, including damming of waterways, dredging, and pollution) have combined to put this species in danger. Because Gulf Sturgeons don't reproduce until they are between 7 and 21 years old, they can't quickly bounce back from dips in population. A number of organizations, both public and private, are combining efforts to help this sturgeon recover.

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Rivers & streams.

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Eastern Canada.