Numerous studies have examined the age and growth of shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, but only one study attempted to validate age estimation techniques. Therefore, our objective was to use marginal increment analysis to validate annulus formation in pectoral fin rays of shovelnose sturgeon collected from the Missouri River. We also compared the precision of age estimates between two different readers. Marginal increment distance indicated that for most of the populations an opaque band was laid down in pectoral fin rays during the summer. However, opaque bands were formed throughout the year in some individuals, which could be problematic when using fin rays for age estimation. The agreement of age estimates by two readers for shovelnose sturgeon was only 18%, and differences in ages between the two readers increased for older fish. The presence of split annuli, false annuli, spawning bands, imbedded rays, and deteriorating sections made individual growth rings difficult to separate. Our findings verified that opaque bands are formed annually during the summer in the pectoral fin rays of most shovelnose sturgeon, but some individuals form opaque bands during other times. Pectoral fin rays will probably continue to be the most practical method of age estimation in shovelnose sturgeon, but ages estimated by this method should be used with caution.
Additional publication details
Age estimation for shovelnose sturgeon: A cautionary note based on annulus formation in pectoral fin rays