Prior to anthropogenic modifications, the historic Missouri River provided ecological conditions suitable for reproduction, growth, and survival of pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus. However, little information is available to discern whether altered conditions in the contemporary Missouri River are suitable for feeding, growth and survival of endangered pallid sturgeon during the early life stages. In 2004 and 2007, nearly 600 000 pallid sturgeon free embryos and larvae were released in the upper Missouri River and survivors from these releases were collected during 2004–2010 to quantify natural growth rates and diet composition. Based on genetic analysis and known-age at release (1–17 days post-hatch, dph), age at capture (dph, years) could be determined for each survivor. Totals of 23 and 28 survivors from the 2004 and 2007 releases, respectively, were sampled. Growth of pallid sturgeon was rapid (1.91 mm day-1) during the initial 13–48 dph, then slowed as fish approached maximum length (120–140 mm) towards the end of the first growing season. The diet of young-of-year pallid sturgeon was comprised of Diptera larvae, Diptera pupae, and Ephemeroptera nymphs. Growth of pallid sturgeon from ages 1–6 years was about 48.0 mm year-1. This study provides the first assessment of natural growth and diet of young pallid sturgeon in the wild. Results depict pallid sturgeon growth trajectories that may be expected for naturally produced wild stocks under contemporary habitat conditions in the Missouri River and Yellowstone River.
Additional publication details
Natural growth and diet of known-age pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) early life stages in the upper Missouri River basin, Montana and North Dakota