Skip to main content

Passive acoustic records of Lake Sturgeon calling activity in Detroit River

Cite this dataset

Higgs, Dennis; Beach, Riley (2021). Passive acoustic records of Lake Sturgeon calling activity in Detroit River [Dataset]. Dryad.


Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are endangered in the Laurentian Great Lakes with increasing binational efforts to establish spawning grounds to aid restoration. While SCUBA surveys can document spawning activity, these are labour-intensive and may disrupt spawning. We used passive acoustic monitoring to quantify spawning sounds of lake sturgeon as a first step to developing remote sensing of sturgeon spawning grounds. Acipenser sp. are known to make a variety of sounds including, “thunders” (aka drums), which have been documented in A. fulvescens during spawning. We quantified drums from a known spawning bed. We recorded 5 different potential sturgeon sounds but only quantified drums as a marker for spawning activity. Drums were low frequency with average frequency peaks at 40 and 92 Hz and a rapid drop-off thereafter. There was no relationship between calling activity and water temperature but calling activity increased as the summer progressed. Call production was most active from 0600-1500h with little calling activity during nighttime recordings. The presence of low frequency boat sounds did correlate with a reduction in maximum calling rate so it is possible that commercial shipping may disrupt sturgeon communication, but more research is necessary to separate correlational from causative effects. These recordings represent a promising approach to map sturgeon spawning activity and show the potential effect of human activity on communication in this threatened species.


All sounds were collected from passive acoustic hydrophones as long-term recorders off a known spawning bed.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Award: 2020-04524