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(Huso huso), a valuable commercial fish of the sturgeon family.
The beluga is up to 9 m long. It weighs up to 1 ton or up to 1.5 tons in exceptional cases. The beluga is distinguished from other sturgeons by its huge crescent-shaped mouth and fused branchial membranes. Beluga live in the Caspian, Black, Azov, and Adriatic seas, from which they enter the rivers. They reach sexual maturity at 12–18 years, when they are about 2 m long. They enter the rivers for reproduction, producing from 0.5 to 5 million eggs. When beluga are in the Volga two races are distinguished: the spring beluga (which enter the river in April and spawn in May of the same year) and the winter beluga (which enter the river in the fall and spawn in the spring of the following year). The beluga fry slip out to sea, where they feed on mollusks and crustaceans. The adults feed on various fish (roach, herring, gobies, anchovies, Black Sea haddock, and others).
The roe of the beluga is larger than that of other sturgeons and is used mainly in the manufacture of soft caviar. The number of beluga has been sharply reduced by the destruction of the conditions for their reproduction by construction of a series of hydroelectrical projects, as well as by the pollution of rivers with industrial waste.
REFERENCESBerg, L. S. Ryby presnykh vod SSSR i sopredel’nykh stran, 4th ed., part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Promyslovye ryby SSSR: Opisanie ryb. Moscow, 1949. [Text and atlas.]