Beluga

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Belugas are HUGE freshwater fish living in rivers and seas of Europe and Asia. Many fish are hard to take pictures of, so the picture above is not very good. I also have a drawing of a beluga below. This drawing shows more of the body features of this amazing fish. When you hear the word beluga, you most likely think of the beluga whale. The beluga, which is one of 27 species in the sturgeon family, is sometimes called the beluga sturgeon in order to avoid confusion. Some of the first things you probably notice in the picture above are the weird things hanging down from the beluga’s snout. These tentacle-looking things (which are called barbels) are used for sensing movement in the water. One of the features that is more prominent in the picture above is the beluga’s upturned snout. These fish are grey, dark green, or grayish blue with a white belly.

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Size

Belugas are the largest freshwater fish anywhere in the world! These huge fish weigh on average 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg). And some are much larger! They are normally about 9.8 feet (3 m) in length. The largest beluga ever caught weighed 3,463 pounds (1,571 kg) and was 23.6 feet (7.2 m) long! That’s one monster fish! Females are usually larger than males.

Diet

Adult beluga sturgeons eat mainly fish. These fish swim in the middle to lower depths and consume mainly deep-sea swimming fish, unlike other sturgeons. Most other sturgeons feed mainly on invertebrates. Belugas feed on fish such as flounders, anchovies, gobies, and herring. Although fish is their main food, adult belugas also eat aquatic invertebrates. The barbels which I mentioned earlier are used for sensing prey. Juvenile belugas do not usually feed on fish, and their diet normally consists of invertebrates.

Habitat and Range

Belugas are like salmon. Okay, they look completely different and are much larger, but they are very similar in one key way…besides both being fish. Both salmon and belugas live mainly in saltwater and travel to freshwater to spawn. During most of the year, belugas live in bodies of salt water in and around Europe and western Asia. Some of these seas include the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Status and Threats

Belugas are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. One of the biggest threats to these fish is humans. They are highly prized in sport fishing due to their large size. Individuals fishing is not usually enough to cause a species to become endangered, and the main threat is commercial fisheries. The belugas meat is not commercially valuable, but their eggs are. The caviar (fancy term for fish eggs used as food) of this fish can sell for up to 7,000 US dollars for just 2.2 pounds (one kilogram). You can see why belugas are so sought after. The sad thing is, although there are many restrictions on caviar trade, many people are willing to take the risk and sell caviar illegally, due to the money it can generate. It is estimated that half or more of the caviar trade in the world is illegal. Pollution and the creation of dams are also severe threats to the well-being of these sturgeons.

Reproduction and young

Another reason belugas are extremely rare is that they can take up to 18 years before they are able to reproduce. Even they will only spawn every two to four years! In either the spring or the fall adults migrate upstream much like salmon do. They spawn in shallow pools, and females can produce up to 7.5 million eggs each! This is because many eggs may never have a chance to hatch, and those that do might not survive long enough to reproduce. Some belugas can live for a long time. The oldest beluga on record was 118 years old! Who knows how long these animals could live if all the threats were taken away!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Beluga – Betty Wills
  • Beluga drawing – public domain
  • Mystery animal – W-van
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