We conducted laboratory experiments with kaluga, Huso dauricus, and Amur sturgeon, Acipenser schrenckii, to develop a conceptual model of early behavior. We daily observed embryos (first life phase after hatching) and larvae (period initiating exogenous feeding) to day-30 (late larvae) for preference of bright habitat and cover, swimming distance above the bottom, up- and downstream movement, and diel activity. Day-0 embryos of both species strongly preferred bright, open habitat and initiated a strong, downstream migration that lasted 4 days (3 day peak) for kaluga and 3 days (2 day peak) for Amur sturgeon. Kaluga migrants swam far above the bottom (150 cm) on only 1 day and moved day and night; Amur sturgeon migrants swam far above the bottom (median 130 cm) during 3 days and were more nocturnal than kaluga. Post-migrant embryos of both species moved day and night, but Amur sturgeon used dark, cover habitat and swam closer to the bottom than kaluga. The larva period of both species began on day 7 (cumulative temperature degree-days, 192.0 for kaluga and 171.5 for Amur sturgeon). Larvae of both species preferred open habitat. Kaluga larvae strongly preferred bright habitat, initially swam far above the bottom (median 50-105 cm), and migrated downstream at night during days 10-16 (7-day migration). Amur sturgeon larvae strongly avoided illumination, had a mixed response to white substrate, swam 20-30 cm above the bottom during most days, and during days 12-34 (most of the larva period) moved downstream mostly at night (23-day migration). The embryo-larva migration style of the two species likely shows convergence of non-related species for a common style in response to environmental selection in the Amur River. The embryo-larva migration style of Amur sturgeon is unique among Acipenser yet studied.
Additional publication details
Comparative ontogenetic behavior and migration of kaluga, Huso dauricus, and Amur sturgeon, Acipenser schrenckii, from the Amur River