Starry sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) is a passage fish of the sturgeon family. Body length up to 2.5 m, weight up to 80 kg. It inhabits the basins of the Black, Azov and Caspian Seas. It forms spring and winter races. The snout is strongly elongated, sword-shaped, comprising more than 60 % of the head length. The antennae are not fringed, lateral bugs 26-43. For spawning it rises into rivers. Benthic predatory fish, feeds mainly on chironomid larvae, crustaceans and fish. Valuable commercial fish, an object of artificial breeding. Starry sturgeon hybrids with sturgeon and sterlet have been obtained.
The snout is elongate, narrow and flattened, its length is 62-65% of the head length. The lower lip is discontinuous. The antennae are short, without fringe. Between the rows of beetles, the body is usually covered with stellate plates on the sides. The first dorsal fin has 40-46 rays; anal fin has 24-29 rays; dorsal beetles 11-14, lateral beetles 30-36, pelvic beetles 10-11; gill stamens on the 1st gill arch 24-26.
Starry sturgeon is easily distinguished from all other sturgeons by its unusually long nose, which is almost dagger-shaped and gives it a very strange appearance. Its forehead is rather convex, its antennae are smooth and narrow, not reaching the mouth, on which the lower lip is poorly developed; its body is also elongated in length and all the bugs on the body stand rather closely; the dorsal (12-18) and lateral (30-40) bugs are elevated towards the rear end and are elongated into hook-like outgrowths; the abdominal bugs (10-12) are relatively well developed. Body color is red-brown with bluish-black tinge, sides and abdomen white. The length and shape of the nose, however, is quite variable; thus, in females and young it is always shorter, and in the Sea of Azov Starry sturgeon, which generally reach here the greatest growth, are characterized by a short snout, which has a slightly different shape (var. donensis). At the same weight, the Starry sturgeon is always considerably longer than other sturgeon fish.
Widespread in the basins of the Caspian, Black and Azov Seas. Occurs sporadically in the Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea (enters the Maritsa River). In much smaller quantities enters the Ural, rises up to Uralsk (and higher up to Rubizhny). Spawning grounds exist below the Inder Mountains, 300-400 km from the mouth of the Ural. Single specimens enter the Terek, Samur, and Sulak rivers. From the rivers of the South Caspian Sea Starry sturgeon enters mainly the Kura, and enters Lankoranka and Astara. Along the Iranian coast it enters the same rivers as the sturgeon (Sefidrud, etc.). From the Sea of Azov, it enters the Kuban River for spawning and less into the Don (the Kuban has always been a "sturgeon" river). From the Black Sea it enters the Dnieper, rarely (but more often beluga) the Dniester. It enters the Southern Bug, the Danube, the Rioni (up to Kutaisi); it has also entered other rivers to the north of the Rioni: the Inguri, the Kodori, and others.
A passable bottom-dwelling fish. Starry sturgeon feeds on invertebrates (crustaceans, worms) and fish (gobies, herring and sprat). In the Northern Caspian Sea, the diet of young fish up to 10 cm in length consists mainly of bocoplaves; at lengths from 10 to 29 cm of nectobenthos (mysids); at lengths of 30-40 cm of fish. In the Middle Caspian Sea, crustaceans (amphipods, cumaceans and mysids) form the basis of the diet regardless of age; segolytes up to 20 cm long feed exclusively on amphipods; at the age of 4 years Starry sturgeon begin to eat fish. The diet of adults includes crustaceans, mollusks, polychaete worms and fish. Starry sturgeon eggs serve as food for spikes, sterlet, whiskers, eel, gudgeon, gudgeon, char and gouster. In places where young fish are released from fish farms, catfish prey on it.
Spawns in rivers. In terms of timing, the course of Starry sturgeon in the Volga, Ural, and Terek is approximately the same. In the Kura, the starry sturgeon enters the Kura River all year round, with cold winters and hot summers in smaller numbers. It spawns in the same places where the sturgeon spawns, except in sodden sections of the banks temporarily inundated by flood waters. Spawning begins in May at water temperatures of +15°C, peaking at +18 - +20°C. Fecundity 58.8 thousand (10-year-old female from the Urals), 416 thousand eggs (19-year-old female). Eggs are bottom, glued to the substrate. Egg diameter is 2.8-3.0 mm. Development lasts from 44 to 80 hours. On spawning grounds, a large mass of eggs is eaten by fish. Larvae roll into the sea, a small part of young fish is retained in the river. In the Volga the rolling larvae are 30-85 mm long, in the Kura - 21-123 mm. At the plants, eggs develop in a dehulled state.
Starry sturgeon meat is characterized by high flavor qualities. It is harvested in chilled and frozen form, and the cores are used for preparing payus and grain caviar, sometimes mixed with caviar of other sturgeons. The dorsal string is used to make viziga, the cartilage is used to make canned food, and the swim bladder is used to make fish glue. The body fat content of Starry sturgeon does not exceed 11%, and caviar - 10%.
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