Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 137–150 | Cite as

Ontogenetic Behavior and Migration of Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, and Shortnose Sturgeon, A. brevirostrum, with Notes on Social Behavior

  • Boyd Kynard
  • Martin Horgan


Ontogenetic behavior of Hudson River Atlantic sturgeon and Connecticut River shortnose sturgeon early life intervals were similar during laboratory observations. After hatching, free embryos were photonegative and sought cover. When embryos developed into larvae, fish left cover, were photopositive, and initiated downstream migration. Free embryos may remain at the spawning site instead of migrating downstream because the risk of predation at spawning sites is low. The two species are sympatric, but not closely related, so the similarities in innate behaviors suggest common adaptations, not phylogenetic relationship. Atlantic sturgeon migrated downstream for 12 days (peak, first 6 days), shortnose sturgeon migrated for 3 days, and year-0 juveniles of both species did not resume downstream migration. Short or long migrations of larvae may reflect different styles related to the total migratory distance from spawning sites to juvenile rearing areas. Atlantic sturgeon need to move a short distance to reach rearing areas and they had a long 1-step migration of 6–12 days. In contrast, shortnose sturgeon need to move a long distance to reach all rearing areas. This may be accomplished by a 2-step migration, of which the brief migration of larvae is only the first step. Early migrant Atlantic sturgeon were nocturnal, while late migrants were diurnal, and shortnose sturgeon were diurnal. These diel differences may also be adaptations for long (Atlantic sturgeon) or short (shortnose sturgeon) migrations. Cultured shortnose sturgeon, and possibly Atlantic sturgeon, have a dominance hierarchy with large fish dominant when competing for limited foraging space. Social behavior may be more important in the life history of wild sturgeons than is generally recognized.

habitat preference fish behavior early life-history adaptation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boyd Kynard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martin Horgan
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources DivisionS.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research CenterTurners FallsU.S.A.
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstU.S.A

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