A laboratory examination of substrate, water depth, and light use at two water velocity levels by individual juvenile pallid (Scaphirhynchus albus) and shovelnose (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) sturgeon


We investigated the influence of substrate type, water depth, light, and relative water velocity on microhabitat selection in juvenile pallid (Scaphirhynchus albus) and shovelnose (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) sturgeon. Individual sturgeon were placed in an 18 927 L elliptical flume, and their location was recorded after a 2-h period. Data were analyzed using exact chi-square goodness of fit tests and exact tests of independence. Both sturgeon species used substrate, depth, and light in similar proportions. (all comparisons; P > 0.05). Specifically, pallid and shovelnose sturgeon did not use substrate in proportion to its availability (pallid: P = 0.0026; shovelnose: P = 0.0199). Each species used sand substrate more and gravel substrate less than expected based on availability. Additionally, neither species used woody structure. Both species used deep areas in greater proportion than availability while shallow areas were used less than expected based on availability (pallid; P < 0.0001; shovelnose; P = 0.0335). Pallid and shovelnose sturgeon used very dark areas in greater proportion than expected based on availability; however, very light areas were used in lower proportion than expected (P < 0.0001). Overall, neither species changed their use of habitat in relation to a change in water velocity (pallid, all comparisons P > 0.05; shovelnose, all comparisons P > 0.05). This study is the first investigation of juvenile pallid and shovelnose sturgeon habitat selection in a large-scale artificial stream system. Field studies of microhabitat selection by juvenile pallid and shovelnose sturgeon should be carried out to substantiate the results of this study, and to identify critical habitat for recovery and management of sturgeon species. Due to the extensive range, longevity, and migratory behavior of these fishes, proper management likely requires river improvements that provide sturgeon with access to a broad range of habitat conditions over time, including system-wide habitat diversity; natural variation in flow, velocity, temperature, and turbidity; high water quality; a broad prey base; free-flowing river sections which provide suitable spawning and rearing sites, as well as protection from recreational and commercial harvesting.

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Journal of Applied Ichthyology