Sex in the Suwannee, the secretive love life of Gulf Sturgeons

American Currents
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Abstract

Mid-February in the Gulf of Mexico and a timeless ritual is about to repeat itself for perhaps the millionth time. Some mysterious signal, possibly increasing day length, flips an internal switch, feeding stops, and the homeward migration begins for the Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi). From far flung places along the Gulf Coast, Gulf Sturgeons start heading back to their natal rivers – they know the way instinctively. Maybe they seek out the special chemical taste of their home river, imprinted at hatching. Or perhaps the ultrasensitive electric organs decorating the underside of the snout can follow the map of the earth’s magnetic field. Either way, time to make a beeline for the welcoming waters of the Suwannee River, or maybe the Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, or one of four other spawning rivers. Some of the adults are on a special mission – time to spawn, time to perpetuate the species. Mature males form the first wave in this homebound marathon, eager to get to the spawning grounds, eager to be the first to greet ready females with a series of sharp clicking sounds. Only spawning once each three years, females laden with large black eggs demure, taking their time, arriving in mid to late March, a month behind the early males. But most sturgeons, juveniles and immature adults not ready to spawn, are simply heading home. Not prompted by the spawning urge, they are just following the ancient annual cycle of intense winter feeding in the Gulf, followed by several months of fasting and R&R in the river.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sex in the Suwannee, the secretive love life of Gulf Sturgeons
Series title American Currents
Volume 39
Issue 3
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher North American Native Fishes Association
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description 3 p.
First page 22
Last page 24
Country United States
State Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi