sturgeon, primitive fish of the northern regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Unlike evolutionarily advanced fishes, it has a fine-grained hide, with very reduced scalation, a mostly cartilaginous skeleton, upturned tail fins, and a mouth set well back on the underside of the head. It also has widely separated rows of heavy guard scales, four barbels or feelers that hang below the head and help to locate food, and a gas bladder from which isinglass is made. Sturgeons feed by sucking in their food—e.g., crayfish, snails, larvae, and small fishes—from the water bottom through their small, toothless, fleshy-lipped mouths.

Some species are marine, e.g., the Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser oxyrhyncus; some ascend rivers to spawn; and some (the largest of inland fish) are found in landlocked waters. The largest species is the Russian sturgeon, or beluga (A. huso), of the Caspian and Black seas; it reaches a length of 13 ft (396 cm) and a weight of up to a ton (900 kg). The Pacific sturgeon (A. transmontanus) may weigh over half a ton (450 kg) and attain a length of 12 ft (366 cm). The green sturgeon is a smaller Pacific variety, and the common sturgeon is found in coastal waters and rivers of Europe and E North America. Other American species are the rock, or lake, sturgeon (A. fulvescens) of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi valley and the shovel-nosed sturgeon, or hackleback (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus; 3 ft/91 cm), also of the Mississippi valley.

Smoked sturgeon is considered a delicacy in many areas, and sturgeon eggs are the source of the better grades of caviar, sometimes in combination with eggs of the paddlefish, a close relative. Russia, Iran, and other countries surrounding the Caspian Sea have undertaken conservation measures, including aquaculture and setting catch quotas, to save the threatened Russian sturgeon from extinction, but declines in Eurasian species of sturgeon led to a suspension of the international trade in wild caviar from the region during 2006-7.

Sturgeons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Acipenseriformes, family Acipenseridae.

Sturgeon’s Law is the name given to two different adages derived from quotes by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon. The first (which was first stated in the story “The Claustrophile” in a 1956 issue of Galaxy) is “Nothing is always absolutely so”, while the second, and more famous, of these adages is: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”. Sturgeon himself commented that Sturgeon’s Law was originally “Nothing is always absolutely so”; the second adage was originally known as Sturgeon’s Revelation, formulated as such in his book review column for Venture. However, almost all modern uses of the term Sturgeon’s Law actually refer to the second adage, including the definition currently listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.


Both adages of Sturgeon’s Law are referenced in Theodore Sturgeon’s 1972 interview with David G. Hartwell (published in The New York Review of Science Fiction #7 and #8, March and April 1989).

The first reference to what was then called Sturgeon’s Revelation appears in the March 1958 issue of Venture Science Fiction Magazine, where Sturgeon wrote: “I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud”.

According to William Tenn, Sturgeon made this remark in about 1951, at a talk at NYU at which Tenn was present.


The meaning of Sturgeon’s Law was explicitly detailed by Sturgeon himself. He made his original remarks in direct response to attacks against science fiction that used “the worst examples of the field for ammunition”. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crud is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms do.

Sturgeon’s Law may be regarded as an instance of the Pareto principle.

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