Florida Sturgeon "Attacks" Over For Now

Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
November 12, 2002

Florida boaters can heave a collective sigh of relief as the last of the Gulf sturgeon head to their winter feeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.

The fish's leaping ability and its size—the Gulf species can grow to between six and nine feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) long and weigh 200 pounds (90 kilograms)—have led to close encounters of a dangerous kind for boaters.

Last summer, at least four people were injured when the fish with prehistoric roots leapt out of the water and crashed into them.

The injuries were not minor; they included concussions, broken ribs and sternum, a collapsed lung, cracked teeth, and gashes requiring stitches.

Still, biologists laugh at the media's characterization of the incidents as "attacks."

"This fish is a living dinosaur," said Frank Parauka, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It's a really docile fish, easily exploited."

He likens the encounters to deer crossing in front of vehicles. "These things just happen," he said.

If the incidents are happening more often, it's almost certainly because there are more boaters on the rivers today.

Jumping Mystery

Sturgeon first appear in the fossil record about 225 million years ago, and they've been leaping ever since. But why do they jump?

"The big ones are the most noticeable, especially when they're jumping in the boat and taking out the driver. But all sturgeon jump," said Daniel Roberts, a research scientist with the Florida Marine Research Institute.

"There are several theories about why they jump, but no real proof to back up any of them."

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.