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Short-nosed sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum LeSueur 1818


[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 106.]

Short-nosed sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum)

Figure 37.—Short-nosed sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), Woods Hole specimen. From Goode. Drawing from a photograph.


The little sturgeon resembles the sea sturgeon so closely in general appearance that we need note only the most obvious differences. These are that the shields in its dorsal row are relatively smaller, and that each is separated from the next by a space up to 1/2 as long as the shields themselves (successive dorsal shields in contact or overlapping in the sea sturgeon); that the space between its dorsal row of shields and the upper lateral row on each side is only sparsely set with fine prickles (closely set with coarse prickles in the sea sturgeon); and that its viscera are blackish (pale in the sea sturgeon); also the number of rays in the anal fin averages smaller in the little sturgeon (19-22) than in the sea sturgeon (23-30). The snout, too, is considerably shorter relatively, as well as broader, than it is in young sea sturgeons of equal size. And while the snout is about as long, relatively, in the one species as in the other when they are full grown, sea sturgeons are then so much the larger that there is no danger of confusing the one kind with the other.


Described as blackish above, tinged with olive above the upper lateral line of shields, marked with alternate black and pale bands; sides, below the upper lateral row of shields, reddish mixed with violet; abdomen white.[7]


This is a much smaller fish than the sea sturgeon. Males may mature when only 19-20 inches long and most of them do by the time they pass 21 inches; most of the females at about 24 inches. The largest so far recorded is one of about 36 inches, in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. One about 31 inches long weighed 7 pounds 4 ounces.[8]


Nothing is known of the habits of the little sturgeon except that it spawns in rivers and that it does so late in April in the lower Hudson. The fact that fair sized specimens are taken there in summer and also in winter, suggests that it may not be as regularly migratory as the sea sturgeon is.[9] But the places of capture of the Gulf of Maine specimens mentioned below show that some certainly go out into the open sea and wander for some distance from their parent stream.

General range—

So far as we know, the only [page 85] locality records definitely belonging to this species, not to young sea sturgeons, are from Provincetown and Waquoit, Mass.; from the Hudson River, N. Y.; from Delaware Bay and River; and from Charleston, S. C.

Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

The only recent record of the little sturgeon in the Gulf is of one about 23 inches long, taken at Provincetown about 1907 and now mounted in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.[10] The Museum of the Essex Institute, Salem, also has- or had- a stuffed sturgeon from Rockport, Mass., identified as this species by Goode and Bean.[11] Evidently the sturgeon is now very scarce in our Gulf and there is no reason to think that it ever has been more plentiful there.

[7] We have not seen a fresh-caught specimen.

[8] For further details as to size, see Ryder, Bull. U. S. Fish Comm., vol. 8, 1890, p. 238; and Greeley, Suppl. 26 Ann. Rept. Conserv. Dept. New York, 1937, p. 69, table 11, pp. 82, 90.

[9] Greeley, Suppl. to 26 Ann. Rept. Conserv. Dept. New York, 1937, p. 90, makes this suggestion.

[10] This Museum also has another of about 36 inches from Waquoit, on the southern shore of Massachusetts.

[11] Bull. Essex Inst., vol. 11, 1879, p. 27. A sturgeon was reported as brevirostris from Boston Harbor many years ago, but there is no way now of checking the identification.