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The Endangered ‘Dinosaur Fish’ Still Swimming in Rivers Today | Stops | Prehistoric Road Trip

The Endangered ‘Dinosaur Fish’ Still Swimming in Rivers Today

Yellowstone River, Glendive, Montana


In the waters of the Yellowstone River that flow through Montana swims a peculiar fish that has been around since the age of the dinosaurs.

Pallid Sturgeon

Earth's Next Chapter

Emily Graslie hops aboard a research boat that’s looking for pallid sturgeon.

The pallid sturgeon, scientifically known as Scaphirhynchus albus, is an endangered species of fish commonly found in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Pallid sturgeon are part of an ancient group of fish that first evolved in the Jurassic period. Since then, the species in that group have evolved and adapted to the changing world, but the outward appearance of the fish, like the shape of their bodies, hasn’t really changed much.

Scientists are working in the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River, to track these mysterious fish and learn more about them. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, some have grown 6 feet long and weigh 80 pounds. Some estimates suggest that they could live to be 100 years old.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added pallid sturgeon to the endangered species list in 1990. Since the mid-twentieth century, the once-thriving fish saw a decline because of disruptions to their habitat, such as dams, channeling, and other river modifications. The changes particularly affected the areas in which sturgeon liked to spawn, according to the service. Today, there are sturgeon being raised in hatcheries to combat their endangered status. 

Watch more of the clip from Prehistoric Road Trip above to learn about how scientists work with pallid sturgeon in Montana.