By: April Carson
An exceptional, ancient fish species believed to have survived since the time of dinosaurs have been discovered on the shoreline of America's East Coast.
The expert eyes of naturalist and photographer Allen Sklar spotted the tragedy - a lifeless Atlantic sturgeon on the beach of Assateague Island, an impressive stretch spanning 37 miles along both Maryland and Virginia's coasts. He caught multiple shots to document its size; this majestic marine creature was roughly 3 feet long.
Sklar identified the fish as an Atlantic sturgeon, a species that has been listed on the endangered species list for over 20 years. This discovery is a somber reminder of how deeply humankind has impacted our environment and its inhabitants.
Standing out amongst its peers for size, the Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) is a massive fish found between Canada and Florida in both rivers and coastal waters. The incredible aquatic creature can reach an astonishing length of 14 feet with a weight exceeding 800 pounds, as reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Atlantic sturgeon has an impressive lifespan, as it can live for up to 60 years. Despite its formidable size, the fish is incredibly vulnerable due to overfishing and habitat destruction.
With their five rows of protective bony plates, called scutes; long snouts; and shark-like tails, these fish - living for up to 60 years on average - are unmistakable.
In the past, Atlantic sturgeon were much more plentiful than they are in present times. Unsustainable fishing and the destruction of their natural habitats during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resulted in a dramatic decline in these fish populations. An esteemed delicacy for its caviar eggs, this species was overharvested by humans nearly to extinction.
Today, the Atlantic sturgeon is listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, making conservation efforts of utmost importance to save this unique species from disappearing forever.
In the United States, four of the five Atlantic sturgeon populations are viewable as endangered under the Endangered Species Act—the fifth group is classified as threatened. This protection makes it illegal to catch or harvest their eggs from these fish in America, providing an additional measure for conservation and ecological efforts.
The Chesapeake Bay, located to the west of Assateague Island and on the opposite side of Delmarva Peninsula, is home to one of only five Atlantic sturgeon populations. Despite their once plentiful presence throughout this area's bay and rivers, these fish have become increasingly scarce in recent years.
Recently, the Atlantic sturgeon was discovered on the east coast beach in Assateague Island. This discovery is significant as it brings to light the presence of a species that has been largely absent from these waters for over a century.
A dinosaur's contemporary, the Atlantic sturgeon has existed for millennia–dating back to over 120 million years ago.
In a Facebook post, Sklar marveled at the 37-inch dinosaur that had washed up on Assateague: "This ancient creature is equipped with scutes instead of scales and is known to be an omnivore. It utilizes its four barbels (whiskers) beneath its chin to detect food while searching along the bottom. The mouth of this fish has no teeth; it is hard and bony."
Although the sturgeon is classified as a prehistoric fish, it was thought to be extinct from this region until its recent discovery. This finding is incredibly important for conservationists who are desperately trying to track and protect endangered species.
The article went on to elucidate: "The size of the fish can range from small - 160 lbs in certain rivers and tributaries of Chesapeake Bay- to large - over 1000 pounds, observed elsewhere in the world. Consequently, due to its susceptibility towards being overfished, it was placed under protection via inclusion into the Endangered Species list back in 2012."
Atlantic sturgeon is a species of anadromous fish, meaning they live in both salt and fresh water. They hatch their eggs in freshwater rivers before moving to the ocean for most of their life, yet return when it's time to reproduce.
This species of fish is believed to have been around for over 140 million years and has survived multiple extinction events; it's a remarkable creature that we still know very little about. Unfortunately, its numbers are dwindling due to overfishing and the destruction of their native habitats.
How To Reprogram Your DNA By Billy Carson
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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