Living fossil


Sturgeon, family Acipenseridae, are one of the oldest extant families of bony fish. The majority of species in this family are over-exploited. They are fished, around the world, for their meat and caviar (unfertilized eggs). In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature list sturgeon as more critically endangered than any other group of species. Declines in the numbers and persistence of sturgeon species is not only driven by fishing and harvesting, but also by damming of rivers. Dams modify sturgeon habitat and prohibit the species’ movements and spawning migrations. Despite conservation efforts sturgeon have and continue to decline around the world. However, the Winnebago sturgeon of Wisconsin are considered a conservation success story, having survived and flourished, despite ongoing fishing and harvesting, because of the dedicated efforts of many government agencies, university researchers and the local community.

The individual in the above photo is Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, commonly known as shovelnose sturgeon. This individual was collected from the Wisconsin River in Wisconsin, USA. Researchers in Wisconsin are monitoring the movements and sizes of this species and other large bodied migratory fish species in light of damming and reduced population numbers.

Haiku and photo: Steph Januchowski-Hartley