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Spatiotemporal patterns in habitat use of natal and non-natal adult Atlantic sturgeon in two spawning rivers

April 24, 2024


Monitoring movement across an organism’s ontogeny is often challenging, particularly for long-lived or wide-ranging species. When empirical data are unavailable, general knowledge about species’ ecology may be used to make assumptions about habitat use across space or time. However, inferences about habitat use based on population-level ecology may overlook important eco-evolutionary contributions from individuals with heterogenous ethologies and could diminish the efficacy of conservation and management.


We analyzed over a decade of acoustic telemetry data to understand individual differences in habitat use of federally endangered adult Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser o. oxyrinchus) in the Delaware and Hudson rivers during spawning season. In particular, we sought to understand whether sex or natal origin could predict patterns in habitat use, as there is a long-held assumption that adult Atlantic sturgeon seldom stray into non-natal rivers.


In both rivers, migration timing, spawning habitat occupancy, and maximum upstream migration distance were similar between natal and non-natal individuals. While non-natal individuals represented only 13% of fish detected in the Hudson River, nearly half of all tagged fish detected in the Delaware River were non-natal and generally occupied freshwater habitats longer than natal individuals. In both systems males had more heterogenous patterns of habitat use and longer duration of occupancy than did females.


This study demonstrates the importance of non-natal rivers for fulfilling ontogenetic habitat requirements in Atlantic sturgeon. Our results may also highlight an opportunity to improve conservation and management by extending habitat designations to account for more heterogenous patterns in individual habitat use in non-natal freshwater environments.

Publication Year 2024
Title Spatiotemporal patterns in habitat use of natal and non-natal adult Atlantic sturgeon in two spawning rivers
DOI 10.1186/s40317-024-00366-1
Authors Shannon L. White, Matthew W. Breece, Dewayne A. Fox, David C. Kazyak, Amanda Higgs, Ian A Park, Cassia Busch, Barbara A. Lubinski, Robin L. Johnson, Amy Welsh
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Genetics
Index ID 70253193
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center