Range-wide age and growth characteristics of shovelnose sturgeon from mark-recapture data: Implications for conservation and management


We used mark-recapture data from shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) to describe range-wide growth characteristics and developed a model to estimate ages. Data were solicited throughout much of the current distribution of shovelnose sturgeon, specifically from the mainstem Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries. Shovelnose sturgeon exhibited variable growth among locations; however, adult fish exhibited almost no growth after they reached a particular size, presumably the size at sexual maturity. Shovelnose sturgeon from the Mississippi River basin attained greater maximum sizes and ages compared with the Missouri River basin. However, two populations from the Mississippi River that received high exploitation from commercial harvest had truncated age distributions with smaller asymptotic lengths. Lower Missouri River populations were characteristic of exploited populations (i.e., smaller fish and reduced longevity), presumably a result of anthropogenic effects. Wide discrepancies in maximum age and size suggest shovelnose sturgeon are capable of displaying phenotypic plasticity in response to exploitation or environmental influences. Determining metapopulation dynamics is a priority because it is unknown how population connectivity may influence dynamic rate functions and persistence of large-river fishes. Identifying potential source-sink connections in terms of population dynamics may provide a template for direction of future restoration and recovery efforts.

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences