Pallid Sturgeon

Pallid Sturgeon

Scaphirhynchus albus

About This Animal

SIZE: 5.5 feet and 100 pounds

RANGE: From the upper Missouri River in Montana all the way downstream in to Louisiana, as well as in large tributaries to the Missouri

HABITAT: Pallid Sturgeon typically reside near river bank and islands

DIET: Carnivore and bottom feeder.

ON EXHIBIT: Tennessee River Gallery and Reelfoot Lake exhibit in River Journey

About this animal: Sturgeons are an ancient fish, with North American fossils dating back to over 78 million years ago. Because Pallid Sturgeon are long-lived, they do not reproduce for the first time until the males are at least 5 years old and the females are15-20 years old.  They also do not spawn annually. Pallid Sturgeon migrate upstream to spawn, traveling over 100 miles. Pallid Sturgeon also have four barbels hanging from the underside of their snout in front of their mouth which are covered with taste buds that also help them locate prey on the bottom of rivers. Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon feed on aquatic insects, snails, mussels, fish eggs, and occasionally fishes, switching to a diet of mostly fish as an adult.

Threats: Sturgeon eggs are harvested from females for caviar, and there are cases of endangered Pallid Sturgeon being killed for their eggs.  Delayed reproduction, habitat destruction and dams blocking spawning grounds are also major threats.

Our Impact: TNACI scientist Bernie Kuhajda is studying the structural features of Pallid Sturgeon in order to determine the best characters to distinguish between this species and the closely related Shovelnose Sturgeon, which resides in the same rivers.

Conservation Status: Federally Endangered and therefore protected under the Endangered Species Act