Animal of the Month
December 2015

Name: Beluga Sturgeon (aka European Sturgeon)
Scientific Name: Huso Huso
Classification: Fish
Class: Antinopterygil
Order: Acipenseriformes
Family: Acipenseridae
Genus: Huso
Size: About 11 feet long, sometimes up to 22 feet!
Weight: About 690 lbs.


Characteristics: Long, flat snout with barbels dangling in front o
f it’s mouth. Long body with five rows of scutes (bony plates)
Color(s): Dark grey or greenish
Behavior: Migratory, moving between ocean and rivers
Preferred Habitat: Shallow waters with muddy bottoms
Range: In the Black Sea (the Danube) and the Caspian Sea

(The Ural).
Diet: Mostly other fist, larger individuals may eat aquatic birds.
Lifespan: Up to 118 years

Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

 

The largest fish in Europe and the largest fish of the sturgeons, the Beluga Sturgeon is an ancient species. They come from the oldest group of living fish, which dates back to 200 million years. These old fish can reach up to a colossal 22 feet long! Beluga sturgeons eat various species of fish, though larger members of the species may go after aquatic birds and baby seals.

Beluga Sturgeons are like salmon in that they spend most of their life in the ocean, but travel into rivers to spawn. Unlike salmon, they do not die after spawning. When not spawning, beluga sturgeon are a very hardy species and can withstand a variety of water temperatures and conditions, even areas that are badly polluted. During spawning they are more sensitive and prefer waters of about 48-51 degrees F. They do not reach sexual maturity until around 15 years old. One single female can lay anywhere from 300,000 to 7.5 million eggs! But despite the high number of laid eggs, the Beluga sturgeon is in big trouble.

Beluga sturgeons are critically endangered. This is largely due to sever over-hunting. The unhatched eggs carried within females are used for caviar, which is a famous delicacy (often stereotyped as a “rich person” food). Caviar is derived from many sturgeon species and some other non-stergion species. The merciless hunting for caviar coupled with the species’ long road to maturity has drastically reduced their numbers. Habitat destruction is also a major threat to this species. Beluga sturgeons are historically native to the Black, Caspian, Adriatic and Azov seas. They spawned in rivers that connect to these seas, including the Danube River. Today, 90% of it’s habitat has vanished. Their numbers have dropped to such low numbers that many are grown in hatcheries.

To help protect the Beluga Sturgeon and other endangered Sturgeon, check out the

World Sturgeon Conservation Society,- an international forum of scientists and advocates dedicated to protecting the sturgeon of the world!
http://www.wscs.info

 

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