We conducted laboratory experiments with Volga River Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, to develop a conceptual model of early behavior. We daily observed fish from day-0 (embryos, first life interval after hatching) to day-29 feeding larvae for preference of bright habitat and cover, swimming distance above the bottom, up- and downstream movement, and diel activity. Hatchling embryos initiated a downstream migration, which suggests that predation risk of embryos at spawning sites is high. Migration peaked on days 0-5 and ceased on day 7 (8-day migration). Migrants preferred bright, open habitat and early migrants swam-up far above the bottom (maximum daily median, 140 cm) in a vertical swim tube. Post-migrant embryos did not prefer bright illumination but continued to prefer white substrate, increased use of cover habitat, and swam on the bottom. Larvae initiated feeding on day 10 after 170.6 cumulative temperature degree-days. Larvae did not migrate, weakly preferred bright illumination, preferred white substrate and open habitat, and swam near the bottom (daily median 5-78 cm). The lack of a strong preference by larvae for bright illumination suggests foraging relies more on olfaction than vision for locating prey. A short migration by embryos would disperse wild sturgeon from a spawning area, but larvae did not migrate, so a second later migration by juveniles disperses young sturgeon to the sea (2-step migration). Embryo and larva body color was light tan and tail color was black. The migration, behavior, and light body color of Russian sturgeon embryos was similar to species of Acipenser and Scaphirhynchus in North America and to Acipenser in Asia that migrate after hatching as embryos. The similarity in migration style and body color among species with diverse phylogenies likely reflects convergence for common adaptations across biogeographic regions. ?? 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Additional publication details
Ontogenetic behavior and migration of Volga River Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, with a note on adaptive significance of body color