Sturgeons (Chondrostei: Acipenseriformes) display markedly disjunction distributions with a wide distribution in the northern hemisphere. Their unique benthic specializations and conserved morphology, evolutionary age, the variation in their basic diadromous life history, and the large public interest due to their near extinction or critically endangered status make sturgeons and paddlefishes interesting groups for molecular and cytogenetic studies. From altogether 27 acipenseriform species, seventeen species are supposed to be critically endangered, two species are classified as endangered, four species are vulnerable and other species are near threatened or in low-risk (IUCN Red list 2010). Sturgeons are characteristic by a relatively high number of chromosomes in cell nuclei and differences in ploidy levels. Sturgeons displayed a strong tendency for interspecific and inter-generic hybridization under altered environmental conditions as well as under conditions of artificial propagation. Almost 20 inter-specific sturgeon hybrids were described. The decrease of natural populations and tendencies leading to restocking may result in uncontrolled restocking, production of hybrid specimens (even with non-native species) and decrease of natural genetic diversity of species in their original distribution area. Identification of parental species of natural hybrids by modern methods of molecular biology is still not easy. Here, we attempt to briefly summarize the major aspects of sturgeon genetics and cytogenetics related to ploidy levels and interspecific hybridization.
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Vol. 60 • No. 2