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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

European Sturgeon Acipenser sturio

Like most sturgeon, European sturgeon swims from the sea into large rivers to spawn in gravelly areas. These prehistoric-looking fish belong to a primitive group in which only the skull and some fin supports are made of bone. The rest of the European sturgeon's skeleton consists mainly of cartilage. Instead of scales, five rows of distinctive bony plates, or scutes, run along the body. Two pairs of barbels hang down from the pointed snout and are used to search out bottom-living invertebrates. The European sturgeon can live for up to 100 years.

European Sturgeon and Banned Caviar

Once common, the European sturgeon is now extremely rare due to overfishing and poaching, and because locks and polluted estuaries have made many rivers unsuitable for spawning. Few active spawning sites remain. European sturgeon is critically endangered, and international trade in the fish itself and any products from it, including caviar (salted roe), has been banned.

European Sturgeonzoom image
  • Order Acipenseriformes
  • Length 11 ft (3.5 m)
  • Weight Up to 880 lb (400 kg)
  • Depth 13–295 ft (4–90 m)
  • Distribution Coastal waters of northeastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea
European Sturgeon habitat mapzoom image