-Now THAT is a giant alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) skull (upper-jaw)! We were able to skim through several gar specimens on a recent trip to The Field Museum and check out some very impressive fishes! As you can see here, this fish would have been on the very large end of the spectrum for modern-day alligator gars (easily over 8 feet long). Unfortunately there was not a lot of data tagged with this fish (as can be the case with very old specimens), but given the appearance of the skull we can assume it was many decades old.
The genus Atractosteus is often diagnosed from the genus Lepisosteus (the two genera make up Lepisosteidae) by the presence of a prominent second row of teeth in the upper jaw (Lepisosteus has only a minor secondary row in the upper jaw). I have inspected many gars, but this secondary row was GIANT compared to anything else I have seen. Could it be that these teeth grew much larger in these very old, giant specimens? We plan to inspect more preserved specimens and pay close attention to living ones as our gar research continues! More to come from this visit and others!–
Solomon David‘s gars, to be exact! I will keep updates coming on the newly added gars to the exhibits at the John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago), but here is a quick photo preview! I am very excited to have several of the gars from my personal and research collection now on display at Shedd Aquarium! Come and see them (and all the other fishes and aquatic life) in Chicago!–
-In preparation for our upcoming aquaculture experiments using Cuban gars (Atractosteus tristoechus) to evaluate sustainable feed, different filtration systems, and various water quality parameters, we had to condition the fish to a variety of feed types. Here you can see a brief video* of the Cuban gars which have been conditioned to take pellet feed (in this case New Life Spectrum fish food).
The group has very recently been moved to the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment Fish Lab where we will begin our sustainable feed experiments in the near future. It is relatively easy to train a large group of fish as opposed to an individual fish since they tend to “learn” from each other!–
-Just a quick photographic preview of some of the things coming soon from “Gar-Con 2012” (International Network for Lepisosteid Research Conference 2012). Check out this tropical gar (Atractosteus tropicus) from the gar farm; much more to come!–
-See photo and link for the story of a giant alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) that was recently bowfished in Texas. This alligator gar is one of the largest in recent history (over 8′ long and over 300 lbs), even though an accurate weight could not be determined. Information is not provided as to whether or not the large female gator gar had already spawned by the time of capture (it was bowfished out of a spawning group); it would be unfortunate to lose those good genes from the pool. It would also be interesting to analyze aging structures (otoliths, scales) from the individual to determine how old this fish was (alligator gars have been aged to over 70 years). This fish at least gives hope that there are still monster alligator gars still out there…and hopefully those beasts are able to evade capture for many more years.
-A great photo from National Geographic: “Down the Hatch” captures an alligator eating a Florida gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus). The caption on the site actually misidentifies the gar as an alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), but morphology (also locality) definitely indicate L. platyrhincus. We have submitted a message to them with this information (we will see if it is fixed!) Great photograph reGARdless!–
Just a couple quick shots of the Cuban and spotted gar groups which were well-fed before I leave for the gar conference (they will still be monitored). Onward to Villahermosa, the gar conference, and the tropical gar farm!–
The first complete molecular phylogeny of living gars (Lepisosteidae) was published in the June 2012 issue of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Abstract and table/figure summaries are available HERE. Researchers and others interested in the full article please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks to all involved with completing this important analysis!
In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Villahermosa (Tabasco state, Mexico), here is a great video put together by colleagues at the tropical gar aquaculture farm (Otot-Ibam) highlighting their gar production. Great shots/sequences of gar development and the culture process. I’ll be presenting at the 4th International Meeting on Lepisosteid Research in mid-June, and we’ll get to tour the farm as well as participate in workshops.