Blast from the Past: Alligator Gar

This is Passport to Texas

Evolution bypassed the alligator gar. Compare today’s gar to the fossil record, and the differences are insignificant.

:07—They’re often perceived as this very primitive, horrible fish that is kind of scary looking. So people, for that reason, have some fear of them.

David Buckmeier, a fisheries scientist for parks and wildlife, says this coastal river-dwelling freshwater fish is actually quite docile despite appearances.

The alligator gar is the largest freshwater fish in Texas, and can grow up to ten feet long and have the potential of tipping the scales at over three hundred pounds.

:11—They have a head shaped much like that of an alligator, hence the name. They are quite primitive; they have heavy bony scales all across their body, which are called ganoid scales. And it’s actual bone plates that protect that fish.

A behavior that some find unnerving is the gar’s tendency to linger at the water’s surface.

:21—Their gills aren’t advanced enough to get enough oxygen, especially when the water temperatures are warm. So, that’s why people will frequently see them at the top of the water; they’ll come up, gulp air then and go back down. So maybe, it’s not that their gills aren’t advanced enough, maybe they are evolving and they’re going to be crawling on the land soon. (laughs) Unlikely. They’ve been around for a long, long time, and they’ve been the same way.

Alligator gar is abundant in Texas, and is a sought after sport fish. More on that tomorrow.

The Sport Fish and Wildlife restoration program supports our series…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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