Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)

loading
Russian sturgeon head detail
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Russian sturgeon fact file

Russian sturgeon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderAcipenseriformes
FamilyAcipenseridae
GenusAcipenser (1)

The Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) belongs to an ancient and unique group of bony fish (1) (4), relics from the time of the dinosaurs, which still swim the waters of the northern hemisphere today. A prehistoric giant, the Russian sturgeon can reach lengths of nearly two and a half metres (2), which is longer than the average human.

The Russian sturgeon’s mouth is located on the underside of its narrow, pointed head, and is preceded by four whisker-like barbels, which it uses, along with its sense of smell, to detect prey on the seabed or the bottom of the river (5).

Its elongated body is typically a dark olive colour, although some individuals appear almost black. The Russian sturgeon also possesses rows of bony plates which remain prominent throughout life and range from white to yellowish gold, in contrast to its dark body (6).

Size
Length: 2.2 - 2.4 m (2)
Weight
65 - 115 kg (2)
Top

Russian sturgeon biology

The Russian sturgeon matures slowly; males typically do not reproduce until they are between 8 and 13 years old, and then do so every 2 to 3 years. Females are not sexually mature until between 10 and 16 years of age, and only reproduce every 4 to 6 years (1).  Individuals of up to 48 years old have been recorded; however, the typical life expectancy is around 38 years, and even this may be somewhat optimistic (2).

Spawning takes place between April and June, when the waters are warm enough. There are two distinct forms of this fish, based on their migratory habits. One type is anadromous, migrating up river from the sea to spawn. The larvae of anadromous fish then drift downstream with the flow of the river, and juveniles spend their first summer in the sea, where they remain until fully mature. The second form of the Russian sturgeon is now considered to be extinct, but was an entirely freshwater variety that did not migrate, and was found in the Volga, Danube, and Ural rivers (7).

Within the anadromous form, both autumn and spring migration runs occur, so yet another distinction can be made based on these migratory patterns. Individuals that migrate upstream in spring spawn in the lower levels of the river, whereas those that migrate during autumn spend the winter in freshwater, spawning further upstream during the following spring (1).

The Russian sturgeon feeds on a wide range of organisms, including crustaceans, molluscs and small fish (1).

Top

Russian sturgeon range

The Russian sturgeon is native to the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas in eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as the major river systems throughout this region. Today, it is confined to the lower parts of these rivers and the seas they run into (1).

Top

Russian sturgeon habitat

The Russian sturgeon inhabits shallow coastal areas at sea, and deep sections of large, fast-flowing rivers (1).

Top

Russian sturgeon status

The Russian sturgeon is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

Top

Russian sturgeon threats

The Russian sturgeon faces many serious threats to its survival. Vast areas of spawning ground have been lost due to the damming and exploitation of river systems throughout its range, and pollution in the Caspian and Black Sea basins is causing devastating hormonal imbalances, and a greater number of hermaphroditic individuals (1) (8).

The demand for both flesh and caviar is a major threat to almost all sturgeon species, and the caviar of the Russian sturgeon is one of the most sought after. Poaching is incessant, with the illegal catch surpassing the legal quota by far. The Russian sturgeon is also a victim of bycatch (1) (8).

Top

Russian sturgeon conservation

Although there is a restricted sturgeon fishing season and a license to fish is necessary in most of the countries within its range, the Russian sturgeon remains largely un-protected in most of the areas in which it occurs. For example, the absence of a strict monitoring system makes controlling fishing very difficult. Iran has banned private sturgeon fisheries, but, in general, conservation measures are either absent, weak, or ignored (1).

Despite continuous restocking efforts and the creation of artificial spawning grounds, as well as fish lifts to help fish get around dams, the population of the Russian sturgeon continues to decline (1). In a period of just 15 years, global catches have dropped by 98% due to the decline in abundance of this species (9).

Iran and Russia are building gene banks of Russian sturgeon, preserving genetic material by freezing, but the situation for the species in the wild remains precarious (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

Find out more about sturgeon conservation: 

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
Top

Glossary

Anadromous
Migratory behaviour of some fish that spend most of their lives at sea, but migrate to freshwater to breed.
Barbels
Fleshy projections near the mouth of some aquatic vertebrates.
Bycatch
In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Crustaceans
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Hermaphroditic
Possessing both male and female sex organs.
Larva
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
Molluscs
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following: a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Spawning
The production or depositing of eggs in water.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Vlasenko, A.D., Pavlov, A.V., Sokolov, L.I. and Vasil’ev, V.P. (1989). Acipenser gueldenstaedtii Brandt, 1833. In: Holcik, J. (Ed.) The Freshwater Fishes of Europe, Vol. 1 Part II: General Introduction to Fishes. Acipenseriformes. AULA-Verlag, Wiesbaden.
  3. CITES (November, 2011)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Findeis, E.K. (1997) Osteology and phylogenetic interrelationships of sturgeons (Acipenseridae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 48: 73-126.
  5. Miller, M.J. (1987) Feeding in the White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus: Ontogeny, Functional Morphology, and Behaviour. MS Thesis, University of Washington.
  6. Vecsei, P. (2001) Threatened fishes of the world: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii Brandt & Ratzenburg, 1833 (Acipenseridae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 60: 362.
  7. Birstein, V.J. (1993) Sturgeon and Paddlefishes: threatened fish in need of conservation. Conservation Biology,7(4): 773-787.
  8. CITES - Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (November, 2011)
    http://www.cites.org/eng/com/ac/16/16-7-2a3.pdf
  9. FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture (November, 2011)
    http://www.fao.org/
X
Close

Image credit

Russian sturgeon head detail  
Russian sturgeon head detail

© Reinhard Dirscherl / www.flpa-images.co.uk

FLPA - images of nature
Pages Green House
Wetheringsett
Stowmarket
Suffolk IP14 5QA
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1728 861 113
Fax: +44 (0) 1728 860 222
pictures@flpa-images.co.uk
http://www.flpa-images.co.uk

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS