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A white wave shape.


An ancient fish with a long life span

Sturgeon—the common name for over 20 species of fish—have been around since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Their life spans are lengthy too: while the average is 50 to 60 years, some individuals can live to be 100 or even older! Here at the Aquarium, we have two species of sturgeon in our care: white sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, and green sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris.

At the Aquarium

Sturgeon…or salmon?

While our guests are far less likely to confuse a sturgeon for a salmon, the two fish do have something in common: they’re anadromous, which means they migrate from freshwater to salt water and back. But unlike salmon, sturgeon don’t die after spawning. Local sturgeon species typically spend more of their lives in estuarine or marine environments (in other words, in areas where rivers meet salt water and in salt water), returning to freshwater only periodically to spawn.

Feeling their way along

Sturgeon use their delicate barbels—the long, whisker-like feelers between their noses and mouths—to forage for food. They drag the barbels along the bottom, searching for shellfish, invertebrates (animals without backbones) and small fish, among other types of prey. After locating a tasty morsel, the sturgeon sucks it up with its toothless mouth and swallows it whole.  

SOS for (some) sturgeon

With over 85% of their species classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, sturgeon are technically the most threatened group of animals on the organization’s Red List of Threatened Species. 

However, most species on the list are found only in Europe and Asia, where females are harvested for their unfertilized eggs. (Ever heard of beluga caviar, considered to be the world’s finest? It comes from beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.) Thankfully, U.S. Fish & Wildlife protections have kept our native populations below the critically threatened level.

Regardless of where they live or their conservation status, sturgeon need a healthy habitat to thrive. Visit our Act for the Ocean page to learn how you can make a difference for them—and all the animals in the ocean. 

Quick facts

Some sturgeon can live to be over 100 years old!

Not a shark! Sturgeon are a completely separate species of fish.

Sturgeon use their barbels to feel for food along the seafloor!

Explore More Fish

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Two sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium floating on the water in their habitat, holding onto each other demonstrating a rafting behavior.

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An adult sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium looking upwards with its front paws resting on its front.

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Sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium laying on its back, raising its head and front paws.

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