Caviar, considered by many to be a delicacy, consists of brined sturgeon roe, or eggs. Until recently, larger species of sturgeon in central Asian waters, particularly the Caspian Sea, provided the world with most of its caviar. Habitat degradation, pollution and overfishing have taken a toll on these populations, and smaller sturgeons, like the shovelnose, are now targeted for their roe. The shovelnose, for example, is currently harvested throughout much of the Mississippi River basin for this reason.
While shovelnose populations have declined in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, James considers the Wabash River population to be among the healthiest remaining in the entire Mississippi River basin, a large area including 28 states.
"We have a healthy, stable population, and we intend to keep it that way," James said. "Professor Sutton's work will help us do that."
Sutton's work appears in three articles, one of which was published in the June-July issue of the Journal of Applied Ichthyology, with the remaining two to follow in separate journals by year's end. Tony Kennedy, one of Sutton's former graduate students, was a co-author in each of the three articles.
Sturgeons, whose fossil record dates back 100 million years, are covered with bony plates and have a distinctive wedge-shaped snout with sensitive barbels, or tactile whiskers, to detect food in river-bottom sediment.
Sutton's research shows that when a shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) reaches reproductive age, it moves north up the Wabash River to spawn (shovelnose are found in fewer numbers in Indiana's White River). The fish is a broadcast spawner, meaning its eggs are fertilized in the water. After fertilization,
Contact: Douglas M. Main