Living Fossils

Last Sunday, after enjoying an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at our rural fire department, we witnessed something that not many people in this world have a chance to see: sturgeon spawning! Every spring the prehistoric fish swim up the rivers from Lake Winnebago to lay their eggs on the rocky banks. The fish come in masses and thrash around on the rocks as they deposit their eggs. The sturgeon move around to different spawning sites and there weren't many at the place we went to check out. The fish we did see were on the smaller side at 3-4 feet long. They can grow to over 6 feet long and 200+ pounds!

Here's a better photo to give you an idea of why sturgeon are called living fossils.

Source: EPA

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to restore sturgeon to their native range. Dams, pollution, habitat degradation and overharvest dramatically reduced lake sturgeon populations in some Wisconsin waters over the past 100 years, and eliminated them entirely from other stretches of water. (source)  Female fish don't reproduce until they are 20-25 years old making it even harder to increase population numbers.

During spawning, the DNR works on tagging the sturgeon as well as collecting eggs. Baby sturgeon are raised in fish hatcheries until they are large enough to be released. In 2010, over 20,000 baby sturgeon were released into Wisconsin waterways due to these reintroduction efforts!

I found out on Monday that the spawning sturgeon that we hoped to see on Sunday had actually moved up river to the base of the dam right next to our library. We could have saved ourselves a drive had we know the fish were right in town! Oh well. We enjoyed our Sunday drive anyways.

Do you have any unique animal happenings where you live?


coffeeaddict said…
Wow, interesting! Good luck to the fish, I was so surprised to read that the female reproduce at such age. What is the average life expectancy?
Kelly J. R. said…
Good question! I went searching for an answer and found some more interesting facts. 97% of all lake sturgeon over the age of 30 are female! (Males mature at 15 years old.) In our watershed, the oldest sturgeon recorded was 82 years old. That fish was caught in Lake Winnebago in 1953. That same year in Ontario, Canada a sturgeon was caught that weighed 215 pounds, was 81 inches long and 152 years old. Amazing!

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