TAXONOMY
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Lepisosteiformes (Gars) 
Family; Lepisosteidae (Gars)

Genus/species: Atractosteus spatula

Alligator Gar 8362889461_f8706ce1f4_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Alligator-like. Large size and broad, short, wide, blunt snout. Light dorsal stripe. Dark olivaceous brown above and white to yellowish beneath. Dark brown blotches on all fins. Body is covered with armor-like ganoid scales consisting of diamond-shaped, interlocking, and extremely hard bony plates covered with layers of dentine and enamel. Head protected by bony plates. Alligator gars have two rows of teeth, a longer one on the palate, and an outer row in the jaw, enabling them to pierce and hold prey. A. spatula is the largest exclusively freshwater fish found in North America. Length to more than 3 m (9.8 ft), weight to 137 kg (300 pounds).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Rivers from the Mississppi to the Gulf coast in fresh and brackish water.

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DIET IN THE WILD: Depending on which source you consult, alligator gars are either passive, superb lie-in-wait predators or aggressive voracious carnivores of fish, blue crabs, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals.

REPRODUCTION: Eggs laid on aquatic vegetation, to which they adhere. Young cling to the stems with an adhesive disc on their head until yolk sac is absorbed, and then swim actively. Juveniles feed on plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish before transitioning to fish almost exclusively.

MORTALITY: Females generally larger and longer lived than males. Some may live to 50 years or more in the wild, 80 years in captivity.
Our oldest gars are  in their 60.

CONSERVATION STATUS: Not on IUCN Red List.
Pollution and degradation of habitat threaten this species.

alligator garIMG_2863

REMARKS: Gars also have a highly vascularized swim bladder directly connected to its throat that enables them to breathe in air, an adaptation to life in water with low oxygen levels. Native Americans used armor-like ganoid scales as arrowheads and jewelry. Early American farmers used the scales on the blades of their plows.

Swamp SW08

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