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Summary

Thirty gravid, female shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) were captured in the Lower Missouri River in March 2004 to evaluate the effectiveness of physiology, telemetry and remote sensor technology coupled with change point analysis in identifying when and where Scaphirhynchus sturgeon spawn. Captured sturgeons were instrumented with ultrasonic transmitters and with archival data storage tags (DST) that recorded temperature and pressure. Female sturgeon were tracked through the suspected spawning period. Thereafter, attempts were made to recapture fish to evaluate spawning success. At the time of transmitter implantation, blood and an ovarian biopsy were taken. Reproductive hormones and cortisol were measured in blood. Polarization indices and germinal vesicle breakdown were assessed on the biopsied oocytes to determine readiness to spawn. Behavioral data collected using telemetry and DST sensors were used to determine the direction and magnitude of possible spawning-related movements and to identify the timing of potential spawning events. Upon recapture observations of the ovaries and blood chemistry provided measures of spawning success and comparative indicators to explain differences in observed behavior. Behavioral and physiological indicators of spawning interpreted along with environmental measures may assist in the determination of variables that may cue sturgeon reproduction and the conditions under which sturgeon successfully spawn.