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shovelnose sturgeon

shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus)
Photo © Garold Sneegas/Engbretson Underwater Photography

Features and Behaviors


A shovelnose sturgeon's average weight is one and one-half to two pounds. The maximum length is about 30 inches, and the maximum weight is about five pounds. Four fringed barbels (whisker-like projections) are present on the chin near the sucking-type mouth. Bony plates along the back, a forked tail and a flat head in the shape of a shovel are all characteristic traits. The body is brown on the back and sides with a white belly. The skeleton is mainly cartilage.


The shovelnose sturgeon lives on a gravel or sand bottom in the open channels of large rivers. This fish is capable of reproducing when it reaches a length of 20 to 25 inches (age five to seven years). The female deposits about 200,000 eggs over a gravel or rock bottom in the open channel of a large river. Spawning occurs April through June. The shovelnose sturgeon eats insect larvae (particularly flies and caddisflies), using its flexible sucking mouth to pull them in.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Acipenseriformes
Family: Acipenseridae

Illinois Status: common, native