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Thread: Gars

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    Admin denise's Avatar
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    Gars

    Gars are unusually shaped, almost prehistoric-looking fish. There are 7 types worldwide, 3 of these are common in Florida. They are primarily freshwater fish (found in rivers and lakes), but some venture into brackish water on the hunt for food.



    Gars are usually spotted cruising in small, slow swimming schools. They are ambush predators, meaning they sit-and-wait for their unsuspecting prey to swim by. When they see their victim they lunge out, rapidly striking with their elongate snout, and catch their prey with their needle like teeth. They mainly eat fish, but will also take crabs, young birds, small mammals and turtles. They are ferocious predators, but pose no threat to divers or swimmers. Gar can grow to large sizes, the alligator gar can grow to 12 feet long, and weigh more than 100lbs! Due to their large size, gars have relatively few if any natural predators, apart from the American Alligator.

    Gars have a very interesting method of "breathing"; their swim bladders can function as lungs! Most gars surface periodically to take a gulp of air, if the water they are in has a low concentration of oxygen (for example in warm or stagnant waters). This ability allows them to survive in waters that would kill most other fish.


    Longnose gar, Lepisosteus osseus, in run at Blue Spring, Central Florida

    Longnose gar can be aged by annular marks on their fins! Females grow more quickly and live longer than males. Most live to be more than 16 years old, where as males have a life expectancy of about 10 years.



    Curious Longnose Gar, Lepisosteus osseus, Cow Springs

    Longnose gar are the most common and widespread of the 4 types of gar found in Florida.

    Whats in a name? Longnose gar, Lepisosteus osseus:

    * Lepisosteus (leh-pee-sauce´-tay-us) means "scales of bone" in Greek

    * osseus (ahs´-say-us) means "bony" in Latin




    Florida gar, Lepisosteus platyrhincus

    Florida gar prefer shadier areas to the sides of runs, whereas longnose gar usually cruise in the open water.



    Gar eating a catfish at Blue Springs, Central Florida
    Photo by Bob Rosell

    In Florida, longnose gars feed mainly on fishes, their favorites are bullhead catfish and small bluegills.


    Close up of a gar showing teeth, Blue Spring, Central Florida

    Gars are ancient, primitive-looking fish, that have changed very little since the days dinosaurs roamed the earth.
    Last edited by denise; 11-30-2011 at 10:26 AM.
    Denise Byrne
    Marine Biologist/OW, Tech and Cave Instructor
    denise@dayo.com
    Orlando, Florida

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