Atlantic Sturgeon: Acipenser oxyrhynchus
These fish look prehistoric for a reason – they are descendents of fish that were common during the Paleozoic period. Although adults are toothless, the sturgeon has no problem rooting up mussels and other shellfish from the ocean floor with its long snout. The four barbels just behind the mouth are sensory in nature and are not harmful. Sought for their eggs (roe) for caviar and for their meat, Atlantic sturgeon populations peaked in American waters around the turn of the 20th century. Decimated by overfishing, pollution and dams that blocked the sturgeons’ upriver course to breeding grounds, it has been unlawful to catch or possess these fish in Virginia since 1974.