Food habits of the endangered Alabama Sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus suttkusi Williams and Clemmer, 1991 (Acipenseridae)


Author's address: Thomas M. Keevin, Environmental Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St Louis District, 1222 Spruce Street, St Louis, MO 63103-2833, USA.


The gut contents of 12 museum specimens of the federally (USA) endangered Alabama sturgeon were analyzed. This collective series represents 32% of the known museum specimens. Gut contents were dominated by aquatic insects and fishes. At the taxonomic level of insect orders, Dipterans (174.3/fish) were the most numerically abundant food item consumed, followed by Ephemeroptera (19.0/fish), Trichoptera (4.0/fish), Coleoptera (2.4/fish), and Odonata (2.0/fish). Weight, which better reflects the caloric value of food items consumed, showed a similar consumption pattern. Dipterans (12.5%) made up the largest percentage of the total weight of insect prey, followed by Ephemeroptera (8.9%), Trichoptera (6.0%), Odonata, (4.5%) and Coleoptera (0.9%). Volumetric values were substantially higher than weights for Odonata (13.4%) and Ephemeroptera (14.3%), but were comparable for Diptera (10.6%), Trichoptera (4.7%), and Coleoptera (2.2%). The diet of the Alabama sturgeon is similar to the pallid and shovelnose sturgeon, eating both aquatic invertebrates and fish. In terms of piscivory, the volume of fish in the diet of the Alabama sturgeon (34.5%) is intermediate between that of the shovelnose (0% fish) and the pallid sturgeon (60% fish). Based upon the habitat preference of the prey family assemblages present from the 12 guts examined, probable feeding habitats of this sturgeon include sandy to rocky bottoms, slow to swift water velocities, and the water column. Conservation of fish prey may be important to the survival and recovery of the Alabama sturgeon.