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Alabama Sturgeon

ALABAMA STURGEON

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Scaphirhynchus suttkusi

CHARACTERISTICS: In the Alabama sturgeon, the eye is large, its length going 6.5 to 8.2 (usually 7.0 to 8.0) times into the head width (Williams and Clemmer, 1991). Lateral plates behind the dorsal fin usually number 27 to 32, dorsal plates 15 to 21, and plates between the anal fin base and the caudal peduncle seven or eight. The back and most of the dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins are brownish orange. The sides of the body near the lateral row of scutes are light tan to golden yellow. The belly, pelvic fin, and most of the anal fin are creamy white.

ADULT SIZE: 2.3 to 2.6 ft (.7 to .8 m)

DISTRIBUTION: This species is endemic to the Mobile basin. The original description was based on only 32 museum specimens from the Alabama, Cahaba, Coosa, and upper Tombigbee rivers. Burke and Ramsey (1985) collected five specimens in the lower Alabama River system. Since 1993, three individuals have been collected in the Alabama River, all from downstream of Claiborne Lock and Dam.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Burke and Ramsey (1985) observe that this species prefers deep, swiftly moving currents over permanent sand and gravel substrates. Williams and Clemmer (1991) note that larval insects were the most abundant food items in the specimens they examined. The collection of 12 individuals (including two gravid females) at the mouth of the Cahaba River on 21 March 1969 (Burke and Ramsey, 1985, 1995) indicated that this species spawns in late March or early April; Alabama River females examined in April and May 1985 had not ovulated, which suggests a later spawn.

REMARKS: The type locality for the Alabama sturgeon is Smith Lake, Monroe County, Alabama. The continued existence of this species, which is unique to the basin, may depend upon cooperative efforts to conduct spawning in captivity and to release the offspring into suitable habitats. This strategy has already been successful for shovelnose sturgeon in the upper Mississippi.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Williams and Clemmer described the sturgeon in 1991.

ETYMOLOGY:
Scaphirhynchus means spade-shaped snout.
Suttkusi means in honor of Royal D. Suttkus, noted ichthyologist and collector of southeastern fishes.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects the Alabama sturgeon from capture or possession. Federally listed as endangered, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on Alabama sturgeon. Video is available of the most recently caught Alabama sturgeon.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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