Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The pallid sturgeon can weigh up to 80 pounds while the shovelnose reaches a maximum of 5 pounds and an average of 2 pounds. As demonstrated in the adjoining photographs, the back and sides of the pallid sturgeon are grayish-white versus the brown color of the shovelnose. The length of the barbels, four whisker-like appendages in front of the mouth, also distinguish the pallid from the shovelnose. On the pallid, the two inner barbels are only about one-half as long as the outer. Young pallid sturgeons may be confused with shovelnose sturgeons and therefore all sturgeon must be returned to the water in North Dakota. Shovelnose sturgeons are very numerous in the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers and populations are in no danger at this time.
Pallid sturgeon are adapted for living close to the bottom of large, shallow, silty rivers with sand and gravel bars. With the introduction of dams and bank stabilization, river habitat was covered by lakes, water velocity was increased making deep stretches of clear water, and water temperatures significantly decreased. All of these factors are believed to have contributed to the decline in fish numbers.