AGE STRUCTURE, REPRODUCTION, AND RECRUITMENT OF ATLANTIC STURGEON (<i>Acipenser oxyrinchus</i>) AND SHORTNOSE STURGEON (<i>Acipenser brevirostrum</i>) IN THE COOPER RIVER, SOUTH CAROLINA
Ruddle, Victoria Kate
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This study investigated the age structure, recruitment, and reproduction of two endangered anadromous fish species, Atlantic Sturgeon (<i>Acipenser oxyrinchus</i>) and Shortnose Sturgeon (<i>Acipenser brevirostrum</i>), in the Cooper River in South Carolina. The second marginal pectoral fin ray was evaluated as a new ageing technique, and validated in hatchery-raised Atlantic Sturgeon. There was no significant difference between side sampled (left vs. right pectoral fins) in Atlantic Sturgeon (n = 47, t = 0.000, p = 1.00) and Shortnose Sturgeon (n = 48, t = 1.1985, p = 0.2367). Shortnose Sturgeon sampled were estimated to be between 13 to 41 yrs old (N = 39) and Atlantic Sturgeon sampled were estimated to be between 3 to 21 yrs old (N = 9). Reproductive surveys resulted in one Shortnose Sturgeon egg collected in 2015 and 14 eggs collected in 2017. No Atlantic Sturgeon eggs were collected, but spawning adults were sampled at the spawning site in the Cooper River.