Implications of early life stages in the natural history of the Gulf of Mexico sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus de sotoi
Gulf of Mexico sturgeon were collected during their natural spring spawning migrations from the Gulf of Mexico into the Suwannee River in Florida. Peak numbers were observed during March and April. During the summer periods the fish remained in the river over very localized bottom areas. In late fall, the fish migrated from the river into the Gulf of Mexico. Laboratory experiments revealed that maximum survival of eggs, embryos and larvae of Gulf of Mexico sturgeon occurred between 15 and 20° C. Although Gulf of Mexico sturgeon appear to have a high tolerance to warm water temperatures, their embryos and larvae exhibit high mortalities at temperatures of 25° C. Based on observations of Gulf of Mexico sturgeon migratory patterns and laboratory experiments we suggest that the timing and unusual migratory behavior of Gulf of Mexico sturgeon are associated with temporal water temperature changes in the river and the Gulf of Mexico. The requirements of a thermal refuge are discussed.