How long do they live? Up to 118 years [12] that we know of, but we may never know how long they can live since fisherman (illegal poachers) remove them from the water before researchers can learn about their longevity. The Beluga sturgeon population has declined by over 90% since the 1990’s. Reason: People are willing to hunt a species to extinction for the most expensive caviar in the world [2]. AN OVER 90% DECLINE BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL SPEND $3,500 OR MORE TO EAT RARE FISH EGGS  (my faith in humanity declines with each entry). So, if you just can’t see past dollar signs and feel  some compassion and empathy for living creatures, the least you can do is appreciate that long-lived species are valuable alive because their genetics may hold the key to preventing age-related decline in humans.

Where are they found? This freshwater and marine fish used to be abundant in many sea basins, but now thanks to loss of habitat and over-fishing they are only found in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea [2].

What do they eat? Other fish such as herrings and gobies.

What do they look like? They look like something from a Godzilla movie and can reach 6 meters long and over 7,000 pounds [3]. See Figures 1 and 2.

beluga_sturgeon
Figure 1. The Beluga sturgeon, also known as the European sturgeon.

 

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Figure 2. This is not a Beluga sturgeon.

How do they reproduce? Sexual maturity is reached between 10 to 20 years old. Beluga sturgeons migrate into river systems and reproduce by spawning every 3 to 4 years [2]. Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction, most of the spawning areas have disappeared.

How do scientists know how old they are? From what I can find, researchers base age estimations on the size of the sturgeon.

So what are we lacking? Age verification studies are seriously needed. There’s no information regarding the nuclear genome of Huso huso on NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), although the complete mitochondrial genome can be found here. I could not find any information on reproductive senescence since observing older Beluga sturgeons is damned near impossible thanks to over-fishing. There’s also very little information about the cellular and molecular make-up of these long-lived giants.

Conservation status: The Beluga sturgeon is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. If you’re not sure what that means, allow me to explain: critically endangered means they are about to be extinct in the wild.

Due to the conservation status of the Beluga sturgeon, I am desperate for genome and senescence information. Actually, any information on this species is valuable.

  1. Carey, J., and D. Judge. “Longevity records: Life spans of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.” On-line). Accessed 9/18/2016.
  2. IUCN Red List. European beluga sturgeon.  http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/10269/0. Accessed 9/18/2016
  3. Animal Diversity.org. Huso Huso. http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Huso_huso/. Accessed 9/18/2017