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Type............................Fish Diet.............................Om­ni­vore Av­er­age life span in the wild..........Males, 55 years;

fe­males, 150 years

Size.............................6.5 ft (2 m) Weight.........................Up to 200 lbs Rel­a­tive.......................Size rel­a­tive to a

6-ft (2-m) man bony plates on its sides, looks a bit like an ar­mored tor­pedo. These fresh­wa­ter gi­ants have green­ish-grey col­or­ing and a pointed snout with two pairs of whisker­like tac­tile or­gans that dan­gle near its mouth. These or­gans, called bar­bels, help it to lo­cate bot­tomd­welling prey, such as snails, clams, in­sect lar­vae, and fish eggs.

Lake stur­geons can be huge, top­ping six feet (two me­ters) long and weigh­ing nearly 200 pounds (90 kilo­grams). They are also ex­tremely long-lived. Males may live some 55 years, and fe­males can reach 150.

De­spite their name, lake stur­geons are also found in rivers, but they avoid salt wa­ter. These fish were once a ma­jor part of North Amer­ica's Great Lakes, Hud­son Bay, and Mis­sis­sippi River ecosys­tems and oc­curred from Canada to Alabama. But in­tense fish­ing has ex­acted a heavy toll on their pop­u­la­tions.

These fish were once killed as a nui­sance by­catch be­cause they dam­aged fish­ing gear. When their meat and eggs be­came prized, com­mer­cial fish­er­men tar­geted them. Be­tween 1879 and 1900, the Great Lakes com­mer­cial stur­geon fish­ery brought in an av­er­age of 4 mil­lion pounds (1.8 met­ric tons) per year.

Such un­sus­tain­able catch rates were cou­pled with en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges such as pol­lu­tion and the con­struc­tion of dams and other flood con­trol mea­sures. Stur­geons, which re­turn each spring to spawn in the streams and rivers in which they were born, found trib­u­taries blocked and spawn­ing shoals de­stroyed by silt from agri­cul­ture and lum­ber­ing.

The 20th cen­tury saw dras­tic drops in stur­geon catches, in­creased reg­u­la­tions, and the clo­sure of vi­able fish­eries. Cur­rently 19 of the 20 states within the fish's orig­i­nal U.S. range list it as ei­ther threat­ened or en­dan­gered. In re­cent years, how­ever, the great fish has made some­thing of a come­back. Strong ef­forts at right­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal wrongs in the Great Lakes have im­proved con­di­tions, and con­cen­trated ef­forts to pro­tect the fish have turned stur­geon into a spot­light species.

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