White sturgeon

Acipenser transmontanus

White sturgeon are large fish that range along the west coast of North America from California to British Columbia. White sturgeon from the lower reaches of the Columbia River are considered the most productive in the species' range.

White sturgeon behavior and facts

  • The white sturgeon is North America's largest fish. The largest on record was caught in 1898 and weighed approximately 1,500 lbs.
  • Instead of scales, sturgeon skin is covered in bony plates called scutes, which can be very sharp on young sturgeon.
  • Like sharks, sturgeon skeletons are made of cartilage instead of bone.
  • Using their suction cup-like mouth, sturgeon eat mollusks and small invertebrate when they are young. As adults, they feed predominantly on fish.

From birth to death

  • White sturgeon are born in freshwater, and although they can enter seawater, it's not required to complete their lifecycle.
  • White sturgeon depend on water temperature, day length, and the strength of water current to tell them when to spawn. 
  • Males and female participate in broadcast spawning, whereby they release release sperm and eggs simultanesouly to mix together in the water current.
  • Females may release up to 3 million eggs
  • Fertilized eggs stick to the river bottom as soon as they come into contact with it.
  • White sturgeon can live to be over 100 years old, and grow continously throughout their lives.


White sturgeon are listed as least concern as a species, although the Kootenai River population was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on September 6, 1994 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

White sturgeon, the Oregon Zoo and you

You can see white sturgeon at the zoo's Eagle Canyon exhibit.