A Comparison of Three Sturgeon Species

This article offers a comparison of Atlantic, gulf, and shortnose sturgeon.

Three species of sturgeon can be found in Florida: Atlantic sturgeon (Acipsener oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) and shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum). All three species have a round body imbedded with an armor of five rows of bony plates or scutes. They have no bony skeleton. They also have no teeth and the upper lobe of the tail is longer than the lower lobe similar to sharks. All three species are anadromous, meaning that they move from saltwater to freshwater to spawn. Florida sturgeon can live long lives, exceeding 25 years in some cases.

Atlantic sturgeon occur along the northeast Atlantic coast and Gulf sturgeon, a subspecies of Atlantic sturgeon, occur along the gulf coast. Shortnose sturgeon have been found in the St. John's River, although recent research indicates that their overall occurrence is very rare.

 

ATLANTIC STURGEON

Scientific Name: Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Size: Six to eight feet in length and up to 300 pounds

Florida Range: Occur along the northeast Atlantic coast to Cape Canaveral

Status: Species of Special Concern (Florida); under consideration for Threatened status by federal agencies; currently managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

Notes: It is almost impossible to visually differentiate from Gulf sturgeon. DNA analysis is the most reliable method to distinguish between the Gulf sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon when the capture site is unknown.

 

GULF STURGEON

Scientific Name: Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi

Size: Grow to between six and eight feet long and weigh over 200 pounds

Florida Range: Occur along the gulf coast; native populations are present in the Suwannee and the Florida Panhandle rivers. There are rare captures in Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.

Status: Species of Special Concern (Florida); Threatened (Federal)

Notes: It is almost impossible to visually differentiate from Gulf sturgeon. DNA analysis is the most reliable method to distinguish between the Gulf sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon when the capture site is unknown.

 

SHORTNOSE STURGEON

Scientific Name: Acipenser brevirostrum

Size: Grow to between three and four feet in length

Florida Range: Northeast Atlantic coast and possibly the St. Johns River

Status: Endangered (Florida); Endangered (Federal)

Notes: Have a wider mouth and proportionally shorter snout than other two sturgeon species. Smaller in size than the Atlantic sturgeon, but is sometimes mistaken for juvenile Atlantic sturgeon.



FWC Facts:
The star coral may live for several centuries and grow to the size of an automobile. Its growth rate ranges from about 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch of yearly outward expansion.

Learn More at AskFWC