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Gars are distinctive fish with long cylindrical-shaped bodies and heads with elongated jaws and needle-like teeth. Bony plates known as ganoid scales cover their bodies.
Ranges from 0.76-4 m (2.5-13 ft.); depends on species. The alligator gar is one of the largest of all freshwater fishes, with one measuring 3 m (10 ft.) long and weighing 127 kg (279 lb.).
They feed on live and dead fish but may also consume crustaceans, insects, and frogs. Adults stalk their prey or lie in wait for prey to pass.
Oviparous (egg layers). Longnose gar eggs hatch in 6-8 days.
Unlike most gars that spawn in the spring, the longnose gar spawns in the winter months. Up to 27,000 sticky eggs may be deposited on vegetation by the females. These eggs are toxic to humans and animals if consumed.
The longnose gar larvae, with yolk sac still attached, moor themselves to the vegetation with an adhesive organ at the tip of their snout. They remain moored until their egg yolk is absorbed.
Rarely live past 12 years
May live up to 22 years
Gars are found in Central and North America as well as the West Indies. Out of the 7 species of gars, 4 species are found in Florida including the alligator gar (
), spotted gar (
), longnose gar (
), and Florida gar (
Warm freshwater rivers and streams; occasionally found in brackish or stagnant water
This ancient family of fish has several primitive features, such as a skeletal system that contains a great deal of cartilage instead of bone. Also, their vertebrae are opisthocoelous (anterior convex, posterior concave), which is a characteristic seen in reptiles. This type of vertebrae is found in no other fish species except those in the Semionotiformes order. Finally, gars have a swim bladder connected to their esophagus, which acts like a lung. This allows gars to breathe air in stagnant waters with little oxygen.
The rare ganoid scales of the alligator gar are so hard that humans have used them for breastplate armor, arrowheads, luggage, and even to cover the blades of wooden ploughs.
For more information about bony fishes, explore the
Bony Fishes InfoBook
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION