Shovelnose sturgeon
Scaphirhynchus platorynchus (Rafinesque, 1820)

member of the Sturgeon Family (Acipenseridae)


Mississippi River (Pool 4), Minnesota 1997

Mississippi River (Pool 4), Minnesota 1997













What's In a Name?
Shovelnose sturgeon: refers to the shovel (strujo) looking snout on this sturgeon; "sturgeon" came from an old German word for these types of fish

Scaphirhynchus (Skafee-wren´-cuss) means "spade snout" in Greek
platorynchus (plat-toe-wren´-cuss) means "broad snout" in Greek


    Where Do They Live?
Shovelnose sturgeon live in the lower Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix rivers and some of their larger tributaries. They usually are found in open, flowing channels with bottoms of sand or gravel.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Even though shovelnose sturgeon grows slowly, they can easily reach 600 mm (24 in) long and weigh 2.0-2.5 kg (4.5-5.5 lbs). There are records of them reaching the amazing size of 9.1 kg (20 lbs) in the Missouri River. Our state record for the shovelnose is 2.59 kg (5 lbs 5 oz). This fish was caught in the Mississippi River in Goodhue County. Shovelnose sturgeon live to at least 14 years in Minnesota, but it is likely that some live longer.

    What Do They Eat?
These benthic (bottom dwelling) fish suck their food up from the river substrate much like lake sturgeon. They consume large numbers of biting midge, midge, caddisfly, mayfly, and stonefly larvae along with snails, small clams, and waterfleas.

What Eats Them?
The young are probably eaten by other fish such as catfish and burbot. Adults mostly escape predation, except by parasitic lampreys and humans.


How Do They Reproduce?
Female shovelnose sturgeon mature at about 7 years old and the males mature at about 5 years old. They spawn in May and June, when water temperatures are about 19-22° C (67-71° F). Normally they migrate upstream or move into a small tributary off the main river. They spawn over gravel or rocks in an area with a fast current. The male and female swim side by side while they release eggs and sperm. The fertilized eggs settle to the bottom. A single female may lay 10,000- 50,000 eggs, depending on her size. The developing embryos receive no care from the parents. We know almost nothing about the early life history of this species.


Conservation and Management
At present, this species has no special conservation status, but it is far less common today then it was in the early 1900s. Further south, shovelnose sturgeon are still fished commercially both for their excellent tasting flesh and their caviar (unspawned eggs).




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002