My Scientific Name
By the Numbers
Pallid sturgeon can grow to more than 6 feet long and weigh over 80 pounds. Several of us have been aged at over 60 years old.
How to Identify Me
My scientifc name means spade-snouted (Scaphirhynchus) and white (albus), which are good clues. I am also called the pallid sturgeon because I am not very colorful. Visualize a greyish prehistoric fish with a shovel (or spade) shaped head, a long pointed snout, a toothless mouth that sticks out and works like a vacuum cleaner, whisker-like barbels, and a body lined with scutes. I also have a long forked heterocercal tail, the top is longer than the bottom.
Why I Matter and What's Been Happening
We are an ancient big-river fish that used to swim freely throughout the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers (Figure 1). Our numbers spiraled downward during the 1900s because we were overfished for our eggs, sold as a gourmet food called caviar. Then decades of studding our rivers with dams blocked us from reaching our spawning and feeding grounds (Figure 1). Our larval fish also can’t swim; they drift with the river currents and sometimes are unable to reach feeding grounds, and most of them die.
We were listed as federally endangered in 1990. The good news is scientists have learned more about our biology which is helping them restore us and the places we live. And our national fish hatcheries are raising and stocking us back into rivers. Returning natural water flows in the river and restoring access to our spawning and feeding grounds, are keys to our survival.