The anadromous acipenserid Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus was listed in 2012 under the U. S. Endangered Species Act as having four endangered and one threatened distinct population segment (DPS) in American waters. Anthropogenic activities outside of natal estuaries, particularly bycatch, may hinder the abilities of some populations to rebuild. Most Atlantic sturgeon are residential for their first 2-6 years within their natal estuaries, whereas older subadults and adults may migrate to non-natal estuaries and coastal locations. Previous studies demonstrated that subadults and adults aggregate during summer at locations in Long Island Sound (LIS) and its tributary, the Connecticut River; however, the population origin of these fish is unknown. Because of its geographic proximity and relatively robust population, we hypothesized that the LIS and Connecticut River aggregations were almost solely derived from the Hudson River. We used microsatellite nuclear DNA analysis at 11 loci and mitochondrial DNA control region sequence analyses to estimate the relative contributions of nine Atlantic sturgeon populations and the five DPS to these aggregations using individual-based assignment tests and mixed-stock analysis. From 64 to 73 % of specimens from LIS were estimated to be of Hudson origin. Similarly, 66-76 % of specimens from the Connecticut River were of Hudson origin. However, moderate numbers of specimens were detected from distant spawning populations in the southeastern DPS and from two populations once thought to be extirpated or nearly so, the James River (6-7. 3 %), and the Delaware River (7. 6-12 %). Additionally, specimens were detected from all five DPS in both the LIS and Connecticut River collections. These results highlight the difficulty of evaluating the status of individual Atlantic sturgeon populations because of the propensity of subadults and adults to migrate for extended duration to distant sites where they may be vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science