In the lower Missouri River, a fish with prehistoric ties has learned to live hard—and, too often, die young.
Now, a new study by a University of Georgia professor details the ways pallid sturgeon have adapted to less-than-ideal conditions. Fish that live where their habitat has substantially changed have responded by growing faster and reaching sexual maturity at an earlier age, resulting in a shortened lifespan.
Though perhaps not ideal, this typically long-lived fish has found a way to persist while facing extinction due to widespread changes in its river system.
The findings are a first for this type of species and the paper, published this month in the journal Scientific Reports, offers vital insight into an endangered species. It details the fish’s “plasticity,” or the ability to adjust—rather than genetically adapt—to large-scale changes in the environment.