Assessing dorsal scute microchemistry for reconstruction of shortnose sturgeon life histories

Environmental Biology of Fishes
By: , and 



The imperiled status of sturgeons worldwide places priority on the identification and protection of critical habitats. We assessed the micro-structural and micro-chemical scope for a novel calcified structure, dorsal scutes, to be used for reconstruction of past habitat use and group separation in shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum). Dorsal scutes contained a dual-layered structure composed of a thin multi-layered translucent zone lying dorsally above a thicker multi-layered zone. Banding in the thick multi-layered zone correlated strongly with pectoral fin spine annuli supporting the presence of chronological structuring that could contain a chemical record of past environmental exposure. Trace element profiles (Sr:Ca), collected using both wavelength dispersive electron microprobe analysis and laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry, suggest scutes record elemental information useful for tracing transitions between freshwater and marine environments. Moreover, mirror-image like Sr:Ca profiles were observed across the dual-zone structuring of the scute that may indicate duplication of the microchemical profile in a single structure. Additional element:calcium ratios measured in natal regions of dorsal scutes (Ba:Ca, Mg:Ca) suggest the potential for further refinement of techniques for identification of river systems of natal origin. In combination, our results provide proof of concept that dorsal scutes possess the necessary properties to be used as structures for reconstructions of past habitat use in sturgeons. Importantly, scutes may be collected non-lethally and with less injury than current structures, like otoliths and fin spines, affording an opportunity for broader application of microchemical techniques.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessing dorsal scute microchemistry for reconstruction of shortnose sturgeon life histories
Series title Environmental Biology of Fishes
DOI 10.1007/s10641-015-0438-9
Volume 98
Issue 12
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer International
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 15 p.
First page 2321
Last page 2335
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