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If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

« In the eye of the polar bear storm | Main| FWS announces HCP (Scrub jays) and CCPs (Lower Keys) in Florida »

FWS proposes critical habitat for the Alabama sturgeon

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73 Federal Register 30361 (Tuesday, May 27, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; Fish and Wildlife Service; Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Alabama Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi); Proposed rule).

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to designate critical habitat for the Alabama sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 524 kilometers (326 miles) of river are proposed as critical habitat. The proposed critical  habitat includes portions of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers in Autauga, Baldwin, Bibb, Clarke, Dallas, Lowndes, Monroe, Perry, and Wilcox Counties, in Alabama.  DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before July 28, 2008.

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Photo of the Alabama Sturgeon by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

SPECIES INFORMATION: Sturgeon is the common name used for large, bony-plated, primitive fishes in the family Acipenseridae which typically grow slowly and mature late in life. The Alabama sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi) is the smallest of all the North American sturgeons, typically weighing only 1 to 2 kilograms (2 to 4 pounds) at maturity. The head is broad and flattened shovellike at the snout, with a tubular and protrusive mouth. As with all sturgeon species, there are four barbels (whiskerlike appendages) located on the bottom of the snout in front of the mouth that are used to locate prey. The body is lined with five rows of bony plates called scutes…  Coloration of the upper body is light tan to golden yellow, with a creamy white belly. The life span of the Alabama sturgeon is unknown. Although few individuals probably exceed 12 to 15 years of age, it is possible the species may live longer. The Alabama sturgeon is endemic to rivers of the Mobile River Basin below the Fall Line (inland boundary of the Coastal Plain).  Its current range includes the Alabama River from R.F. Henry Lock and Dam downstream to the confluence of the Tombigbee River.

COMMENTARY: The critical habitat designation is long overdue, because the final and proposed listing determinations for this species were published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2000 (65 FR 26438), and on March 26, 1999 (64 FR 14676), respectively.  This designation may prove especially important in disputes over water uses and the U.S. Army Corps management of 16 reservoirs along the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa Basin, because the Alabama River is the only known habitat for the species.  For more information and perspectives, visit Christopher Scharpf's article, Politics, Science, and the Fate of the Alabama Sturgeon, or the CARIA (Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Improvement Association, Inc.) webpages on The Latest in the Saga of the Alabama Sturgeon.