Strange Rare Fish From Time of the Dinosaurs Washes Up on East Coast

Video prehistoric fish washed up on shore

A rare and strange fish from a species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs has washed up on the U.S. East Coast.

The dead Atlantic sturgeon was spotted by naturalist and photographer Allen Sklar on the shore of Assateague Island, a 37-mile-long strip of land along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. He took several images of the large fish, which measured about 3 feet in length.

“I drive the 12 miles of beach about 100 days a year and so see a lot of stuff others don’t,” Sklar, who specializes in Assateague’s history, wildlife and ecology, told Newsweek. “This was the second sturgeon I have seen [dead] in 27 years of driving on the island.”

The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) is a large fish found in rivers and coastal waters from Canada to Florida. It can reach lengths of 14 feet and a weight of more than 800 pounds, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

This dead Atlantic sturgeon was spotted by naturalist and photographer Allen Sklar on the shore of the Atlantic’s Assateague Island. These sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have been dated back to more than 120 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Allen Sklar

These fish, which generally live up to about 60 years, have a distinctive appearance, with five rows of protective bony plates, called scutes, that run along their body; long snouts; and shark-like tails.

Atlantic sturgeon were once far more abundant than they are today. But overfishing during the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as habitat loss, led to a drastic decline in their numbers. These fish were prized for their eggs, which are considered a source of high-quality caviar.

Four of the five distinct Atlantic sturgeon populations in the United States are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act—the remaining group is classified as threatened. Because of the act’s protections, it is illegal to catch these fish or harvest their eggs in the U.S.

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The Atlantic sturgeon found on Assateague Island is about 3 feet long, but the species can grow to 14 feet. Allen Sklar

One of the five Atlantic sturgeon populations is centered in Chesapeake Bay, which lies to the west of Assateague Island, on the other side of the Delmarva Peninsula. The sturgeon were once found throughout the bay and its freshwater rivers, but they are now very rare in the region.

Atlantic sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have been dated back to more than 120 million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

“This 37-inch fish is a true member of the dinosaurs,” Sklar said in a Facebook post that mentions the washed-up sturgeon he saw on Assateague. “It has no scales only rows of hard plates called scutes. A bottom feeder, it will eat almost anything including clams, mussels, and dead fish. Under its chin are four whiskers called barbels which are used to sense the bottom for food. The mouth is hard and bony with no teeth.”

The post continued: “This is a small one, researchers have found them up to 160 pounds in the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and [they] can weigh over a thousand pounds in other parts of the world. Overfished to the point of almost being extinct they were put on the Endangered Species list in 2012.”

Atlantic sturgeon are anadromous fish, meaning they are born in fresh water and migrate to the ocean before returning to fresh water again to spawn.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>