Monday, May 10, 2010

Alligator Gar

Image from Diobas LTD.
The Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula) is North America's largest purely freshwater fish, and is identified by its long, slender body, alligator like snout, and interlocking scales. It's species name, spatula, is Latin for "a broad piece," which pretty much describes its snout, as well as our cooking utensils. They are a member of the class Actinopterygii, fish whose fins are held in place by bony spines, and whose earliest appearance in the fossil record dates back over 400 million years.

They weigh over 200lbs at adulthood and can reach sizes of 10ft. Alligator Gar can be fished for in certain states, and the largest specimens ever angled topped 300lbs. 
Interestingly, the Gar can live outside of water for up to two hours. They are also served up in restaurants and have a good number of recipes devoted to their preparation. Gar themselves feed on other fish, though they may also make meals out of birds and small reptiles. Full grown, they have very few predators besides man.
Alligator Gars have a pretty bad, but probably undeserved, reputation. There have been reports for decades that these fish are dangerous man-eaters, though there is very little evidence of attacks even happening. Jeremy Wade, from the Animal Planet show, River Monsters, hypothesizes that the reputation comes from being mistaken for actual alligators. It is unlikely that they devour people since they like to hold their food in their mouths and carry it with them, something difficult to do with humans.

Edit: I took a visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum today and what did I find right after I bought my ticket...
I apologize for the glass glare! But look at those teeth!


  1. Eek! Undeserved reputation or not, they still freak me out.

  2. Same lol. How could anyone not be freaked by teeth that large in a fish that long?


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