New York Natural Heritage Program
Shortnose Sturgeon
Acipenser brevirostrum LeSueur, 1818
Ray-finned Fishes

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The shortnose sturgeon is the smallest of the three sturgeon species found in New York State, rarely exceeding 3.5 feet in length and 14 pounds in weight. It is a primitive-looking fish with an elongated body and a hecterocercal tail (upper lobe much longer than the lower lobe). It has a short, conical snout with four large, fleshy barbels. There are five rows of bony plates, known as scutes: one dorsal (back), two lateral (sides), and 2 ventral (under part). The body coloration is olive-yellow to gray or bluish on the back and milky-white to dark yellow ventrally. The scutes are lighter in color than the main body. Like lake sturgeons, shortnose sturgeons have a wide mouth; the inside of the gape is approximately 65% of the distance between the eyes (Smith 1985).

Behavior [-]
Most activity of larvae, juveniles, and adults appears to occur at night (Richmond and Kynard 1995). It is not certain if they are active all year or inactive during the winter.

Diet [-]
Shortnose sturgeon are bottom-feeders and are known to feed off of plant surfaces. Juveniles eat available benthic crustaceans and insects. In the Hudson River estuary, the main diet of juveniles are midge larvae and amphipods. Adults in freshwater eat mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae, depending on availability. In estuaries, polychaete worms, crustaceans, and mollusks are the primary foods for adults. Zebra mussel remains have been found in feces of individuals from the Hudson River (Cornell University 1993).
Shortnose Sturgeon Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
In late May and June adult shortnose sturgeon in the Hudson River move downriver between Haverstraw Bay and Yonkers. The shortnose sturgeon congregate between Hyde Park and Kingston from October through March, then move north in the spring to spawn. Young-of-the-year move south to Haverstraw Bay by October.
Active Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Shortnose Sturgeon active (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus)
    The Atlantic sturgeon has a long, sharply V-shaped snout, two rows of preanal scutes (one row in shortnose), and white viscera. Atlantic sturgeon are larger than shortnose sturgeon.
  • Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
    The lake sturgeon has the anal fin origin behind the dorsal fin origin, has a longer caudal peduncle, scutes on back and sides the same color as the skin, 25-30 anal rays, usually 32-35 gill rakers, and 29-42 scutes along each side (22-33 in shortnose).