Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 70, Issue 1, pp 43–55 | Cite as

Ontogenetic Behavior and Migration of Gulf of Mexico Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi, with Notes on Body Color and Development

  • Boyd Kynard
  • Erika Parker


We observed Suwannee River Gulf sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi, in the laboratory and found free embryos (first interval after hatching) hid under rocks and did not migrate. Thus, wild embryos should be at the spawning area. Larvae (first interval feeding exogenously) initiated a slow downstream migration, and some juveniles (interval with adult features) continued to migrate slowly for at least 5 months, e.g., a 1-step long larva-juvenile migration. No other population of sturgeon yet studied has this migration style. A conceptual model using this result suggests wild year-0 sturgeon have a variable downstream migration style with short-duration (short distance) migrants and long-duration (long distance) migrants. This migration style should widely disperse wild fish. The model is supported by field studies that found year-0 juveniles are widely dispersed in fresh water to river km 10. Thus, laboratory and field data agree that the entire freshwater reach of river downstream of spawning is nursery habitat. Foraging position of larvae and early juveniles was mostly on the bottom, but fish also spent hours holding position in the water column, an unusual feeding location for sturgeons. The holding position of fish above the bottom suggests benthic forage in the river is scarce and fish have evolved drift feeding. The unusual migration and foraging styles may be adaptations to rear in a river at the southern limit of the species range with poor rearing habitat (low abundance of benthic forage and high summer water temperatures). Suwannee River Gulf sturgeon and Hudson River Atlantic sturgeon, A. o. oxyrinchus, are similar for initiation of migration, early habitat preference, and diel migration. The two subspecies differ greatly for migration and foraging styles, which is likely related to major differences in the quality of rearing habitat. The differences between Atlantic sturgeon populations show the need for geographical studies to represent the behavior of an entire species.

larva dispersal rearing habitat feeding early life history Acipenseriformes 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bain, M. 1997. Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons of the Hudson River: Common and divergent life history attributes. Env. Biol. Fish. 48: 347-358.Google Scholar
  2. Balon, E. 1999. Alternative ways to become a juvenile or a definitive phenotype (and on some persisting linguistic offenses). Env. Biol. Fish. 56: 17-38.Google Scholar
  3. Bath, D.W., J.M. O'Conner, J.B. Albert & L.G. Arvidson. 1981. Development and identification of larval Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus) and shortnose sturgeon (A. brevirostrum) from the Hudson River estuary, New York. Copeia 1981: 711-717.Google Scholar
  4. Bowen, B.W. & J.C. Avise. 1990. Genetic structure of Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico populations of sea bass, menhaden, and sturgeon: Influence of zoogeographic factors and life-history patterns. Marine Biology 197: 371-381.Google Scholar
  5. Carr, S.H. & T. Carr. 1996. First observations of young-of-the-year Gulf of Mexico sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) in the Suwannee River, Florida. Copeia 1996: 44-46.Google Scholar
  6. Chapman, F.A. & S.H. Carr. 1995. Implications of early life stages in the natural history of the Gulf of Mexico sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi. Env. Biol. Fish. 43: 407-413.Google Scholar
  7. Chan, M.D., E.D. Dibble & K.J. Kilgore. 1997. A laboratory examination ofwater velocity and substrate preference by age-0 Gulf sturgeon. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 126: 330-333.Google Scholar
  8. Clugston, J.P., A.M. Foster & S.H. Carr. 1993. Gulf sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi, in the Suwannee River, Florida, U.S.A. pp 215-224. In: Second International Symposium on Sturgeon, Moscow.Google Scholar
  9. Dovel, W.L. & T.J. Berggren. 1983. Atlantic sturgeon of the Hudson estuary, New York. NY Fish Game J. 30: 140-172.Google Scholar
  10. Gisbert, E., P. Williot & F. Castello-Orvay. 1999. Behavioural modifications in the early life stages of Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii, Brandt). J. Appl. Ichthyol. 15: 237-242.Google Scholar
  11. Huff, J.A. 1975. Life history of Gulf of Mexico sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi, in Suwannee River, Florida. Florida Marine Res. Publ. 16, 32 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Kynard, B. 1997. Life history, latitudinal patterns, and status of shortnose sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum. Env. Biol. Fish. 48: 319-334.Google Scholar
  13. Kynard, B. & M. Horgan. 2002. Ontogenetic behavior and migration of shortnose sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum, and Atlantic sturgeon, A. oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, with notes on social behavior. Env. Biol. Fish. 63: 137-150.Google Scholar
  14. Kynard, B., E. Henyey & M. Horgan. 2002a. Ontogenetic behavior, migration, and social behavior of pallid sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus albus, and shovelnose sturgeon, S. platorynchus, with notes on the adaptive significance of body color. Env. Biol. Fish. 63: 389-403.Google Scholar
  15. Kynard, B., P. Zhuang, T. Zhang & L. Zhang. 2002b. Ontogenetic behavior and migration of Volga River Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, with a note on adaptive significance of body color. Env. Biol. Fish. 65: 411-421.Google Scholar
  16. Kynard, B., P. Zhuang, T. Zhang & L. Zhang. 2003. Ontogenetic behavior and migration of Dabry's sturgeon, Acipenser dabryanus, from the Yangtze River with notes on body color and development. Env. Biol. Fish. 66: 27-36.Google Scholar
  17. MacKenzie, B.R. & T. Kiorboe. 1995. Encounter rates and swimming behavior of pause-travel and cruise larval fish predators in calm and turbulent laboratory environments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 40: 1278-1289.Google Scholar
  18. Mason, W.T. Jr. 1991. A survey of benthic invertebrates in the Suwannee River, Florida. Environ. Monitor. and Assess. 16: 163-187.Google Scholar
  19. Mason, W.T. & J.P. Clugston. 1993. Foods of the Gulf sturgeon in the Suwannee River, Florida. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 122: 378-385.Google Scholar
  20. Marchant, S.R. & M.K. Shutters. 1996. Artificial substrates collect Gulf sturgeon eggs. N. Amer. J. Fish. Manage. 16: 445-447.Google Scholar
  21. Richmond, A. & B. Kynard. 1995. Ontogenetic behavior of shortnose sturgeon. Copeia 1995: 172-182.Google Scholar
  22. Rivas, L.R. 1954. The origin, relationships, and geographical distribution of the marine fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. pp 503-505. In: P.S. Galtsoff (ed.) Gulf of Mexico, Its Origin, Waters, and Marine Life. Fishery Bulletin 89, Fishery Bulletin of the Fish and Wildlife Service Vol. 55.Google Scholar
  23. Secor, D.H. 2002. Atlantic sturgeon fisheries and stock abundances during the late-nineteenth century. Amer. Fish. Soc. Symp. 28: 89-98.Google Scholar
  24. Smith, T.I.J. & J.P. Clugson. 1997. Status and management of Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus, in North America. Env. Biol. Fish. 48: 335-346.Google Scholar
  25. Snyder, D.E. 1988. Description and identification of shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon larvae. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. Symp. 5: 7-30.Google Scholar
  26. Stabile, J., J.R. Waldman, F. Parauka & I. Wirgin. 1996. Stock structure and homing fidelity in Gulf of Mexico sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) based on restriction fragment length polymorphism and sequence analyses of mitochondrial DNA. Genetics 144: 767-775.Google Scholar
  27. Sulak, K.J. & J.P. Clugston. 1998. Early life history stages of Gulf sturgeon in the Suwannee River, Florida. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 127: 758-771.Google Scholar
  28. Sulak, K.J. & J.P. Clugston. 1999. Recent advances in life history of Gulf of Mexico sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi in Suwannee River, Florida, U.S.A.: Asynopsis. J. Appl. Ichthyol. 15: 116-128.Google Scholar
  29. Van Eenennaam, J., S.I. Doroshov, G.P. Moberg, J.G. Watson, D.S. Moore & J. Linares. 1996. Reproductive conditions of the Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) in the Hudson River. Estuaries 19: 769-777.Google Scholar
  30. Vladykov, V.D. & J.R. Greeley. 1963. Order Acipenseroidei IN: Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Sears Foundation for Marine Research, Memoir 1, Part 3: 24-60.Google Scholar
  31. Waldman, J.R. 1995. Sturgeons and paddlefishes: A convergence of biology, politics, and greed. Fisheries 20: 20-21.Google Scholar
  32. Waldman, J.R. & I.I. Wirgin. 1998. Status and restoration options for Atlantic sturgeon in North America. Cons. Biol. 12: 631-638.Google Scholar
  33. Zhuang, P., B. Kynard, L. Zhang, T. Zhang & W. Cao. 2002. Ontogenetic behavior and migration of Chinese sturgeon, Acipenser sinensis. Env. Biol. Fish. 65: 83-97.Google Scholar
  34. Zhuang, P., B. Kynard, T. Zhang, L. Zhang & W. Cao. 2003. Comparative ontogenetic behavior and migration of kaluga, Huso dauricus, and Amur sturgeon, Acipenser schrenckii, from the Amur River. Env. Biol. Fish. 66: 37-48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boyd Kynard
    • 1
  • Erika Parker
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research CenterLeetown Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, One Migratory WayTurners FallsU.S.A.
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations