Sturgeons are living fossils. The family of sturgeons have existed for over 200 million years. Sturgeons are known to live up to 100 years and have a complex biological structure. Depending on the species, they can have between 120 to 240 chromosomes - humans by comparison have only 46 chromosomes. There are a total of 74 sturgeon species, four of which live at Hellabrunn Zoo, the including the albino sturgeon.
Sturgeons under threat
Almost all sturgeon species are classified as either endangered or critically endangered. Their highly prized meat and eggs (more commonly known as caviar) have led to massive overfishing and a decline in sturgeon populations. River development and pollution have also contributed to the decline in stocks. The European sea sturgeon, once endemic in Germany, became extinct about 100 years ago. The species is now expected to make a return to Germany rivers with the help of reintroduction projects.
Sturgeons have no teeth. Instead they have four barbels (whiskers) under the chin which house taste buds that allow them to smell, locate and taste the food on the riverbed. Its diet consists of invertebrates and small fish which are sucked into its wedge-shaped snout and crushed.