A few weeks ago, the east coast of USA had an unexpected visitor. It was a atlantic sturgeon, an animal that has inhabited the Earth since the age of the dinosaurs and that appeared on Earth assateague island, between the states of Maryland and Virginia. The animal was discovered by fish photographer Allen Sklar, who shared a photo of it on social media.
The endangered species can be found in the Atlantic Ocean since Canada until the Florida. However, the birth and first moments of life of these animals are in freshwater rivers and they only start their route towards the sea when they get old, they explained from the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
These fish can live up to 60 years, exceed 4 meters in length and weigh close to 400 kilograms. The one found on this occasion measured almost a meter.
Sturgeons belong to the Acipenseridae family and have existed for millions of years, precisely from the cretaceousfor what they are one of the oldest fish species in the world. They are considered “living fossils” given that the species has not undergone changes over the years and they remain practically the same as millions of years ago, indicated a study from the University of Michigan. That is why it is said that they look like prehistoric creatures.
NOAA warned, however, that the species is in Danger of extinction given that fishing, the presence of boats and the degradation of their natural habitat together with man’s own works such as dams, threaten their life in the ecosystem.
After the animal was found, Sklar shared an image on his social networks and joked, since years ago he had already photographed another of these animals on those beaches. “Looks like I’m on a fish roll,” he captioned the photo.
As Assatague Island National Seashore reported on his Facebook profile, the photographer first encountered the fish in 2016.
Also, he shared a series of curious facts about the species such as that, during the American civil war, a soldier “broke his leg by a ten-foot sturgeon that jumped out of his boat while rowing across the Potomac in Georgetown.”
He said, on the other hand, that “near Jamestown, teenagers from the powhatan tribe they had to riding the back of a sturgeon as part of the transition to adulthood”.
This species has an advantage for scientists who study its parts after being found and that is that they are rarely eaten by seagulls hungry as they lie waiting to be seen. This is because instead of having scales, they have five rows of bony plates that are attached to their skin, which, in turn, are covered with small jagged scales. In this way, the bone plates -called shields- act as armor over the fish and protect it from the birds.
Many consume the meat of sturgeons although they are usually more famous for their roe, the caviar. Their spawning still occurs in about 22 of the 38 rivers in the United States and Canada where this activity has historically occurred.
In fact, at present, the largest population of sturgeons is found in the river st john in Canada, where an estimated 18,000 to 21,000 of them inhabited between 2013 and 2015, according to NOAA data.
Then the york river in Virginia it recorded the presence of the species, although in smaller numbers – about 75 adults that came close to spawning in 2013-. Since then, annual records have been kept even lower, with numbers between 52 and 219 per year, with a total adult population of about 300.
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