Called the “Dinosaurs of the Great Lakes,” the lake sturgeon is the oldest and largest native species of fish in the Great Lakes. Because of this, sturgeon are kind of like swimming fossils. Lake sturgeon are bottom-feeders with sensitive spade-like snouts and armor-like plates for protection. Fingerling sturgeon are raised at the Zoo, and some are released into the Genesee River each year as part of a reintroduction program led by the USGS and NYSDEC. The Zoo’s sturgeon reside in the E.C.O. Center.
Lake sturgeon were once so abundant in the Great Lakes region that they were caught and discarded by fishermen. Today they are rarely seen and are considered a threatened and vulnerable species. Over harvested for their eggs, oil and meat, the lake sturgeon’s numbers have also dropped because its spawning grounds are being destroyed and polluted. The lake sturgeon’s extremely slow reproductive cycle also makes it susceptible to decline. In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stocked the Genesee River with 1,900 juvenile lake sturgeon in an effort to restore the species to its natural habitat.
Lake sturgeon inhabit the waters of the Great Lakes region, especially the Huron-Erie Corridor.
These carnivores eat snails, mollusks, worms, crayfish and larvae.
Lake sturgeon have inhabited the Great Lakes for more than 10,000 years.
Like sharks, sturgeon lack scales and are cartilaginous, which means they do not have bones. However, sturgeons do have scutes, which are hard plates that act as armor to provide them protection.
Full grown sturgeon can weigh as much as 200 pounds and grow to be up to seven-feet long.
Caviar, a delicacy for humans, is simply eggs from sturgeon.
The fossil record of a sturgeon shows that they have remained relatively unchanged for more than 100 million years.