-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!–
-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.
Students (from left) Paige O’Malley, Matthew Moroney and Courtney Stauderman remove an alligator gar from a holding tank at the LSU AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge. The gar were spawned in holding tanks as part of a research project studying methods of rearing the fish in captivity. Photo: Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter