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Alligator Gar

 Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula) is a ray-finned urealline fish related to the smooth amaia in the class Omegaprophyla. It is the largest species in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fish in North America. The fossil record traces the group's existence back to the early Cretaceous period, more than 100 million years ago. Gars are often referred to as "primitive fish" or "living fossils" because they have retained some of the morphological features of their early ancestors, such as a spiral valve gut, also common in the digestive system of sharks, and the ability to breathe both air and water. Its common name is derived from its resemblance to the American alligator, particularly its broad snout and long, sharp teeth. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the crocodile's thar can reach 10 feet (3.0 m) in length.

Alligator Gar

The body of the crocodile fox is torpedo-shaped, usually brown or olive, fading to a lighter or yellowish ventral surface. Its scales are not like those of other fish. Instead, they are ganoid scales, which are bone-like, rhombic scales, often with serrated edges, and covered with an enamel-like substance. Ganoid scales are nearly impenetrable and are an excellent protection against predation. Unlike other gars, the upper jaw of the alligator gar has a double row of large, sharp teeth that are used to grip prey. Crocodile gars stalk ambush predators, especially marine animals, but they also hunt and eat waterfowl and small mammals that they find floating on the surface of the water.

Alligator gar populations have been extirpated from much of their historical range as a result of habitat destruction, indiscriminate culling, and unrestricted harvesting. The population is now found mainly in the southern parts of the United States extending into Mexico. They are considered brackish because they can adapt to different salinities ranging from freshwater lakes and marshes to brackish marshes, estuaries, and bays along the Gulf of Mexico.

For nearly half a century, the alligator gar was considered a "trash fish", or "nuisance species" harmful to sport fisheries, and its eradication was targeted by state and federal authorities in the United States. The 1980s brought a better understanding of the ecological balance necessary to maintain an ecosystem, and ultimately the realization that crocodile gars were no less important than any other organism in the ecosystems they inhabit. Over time, alligators have been given some protection by state and federal resource agencies. They are also protected by the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to transport certain types of fish in interstate commerce when it violates a state law or regulation. Several state and federal resource agencies monitor populations in the wild, and awareness programs have been initiated to educate the public. Alligator gars are farmed in ponds, streams, and tanks by federal hatcheries for stocking, by universities for research purposes, and in Mexico for consumption.


Detailed information

Alligator gar is the largest species in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fish found in North America. A mature crocodile garlic is 6 feet (1.8 m) long and weighs over 100 pounds (45 kg). However, anecdotal reports indicate that they can reach 10 feet (3 m) in length, and weigh up to 350 pounds (159 kg). The largest alligator gar ever officially recorded was inadvertently caught in the net of angler Kenny Williams of Vicksburg, Mississippi, while fishing the rainbow lakes of the Mississippi River on February 14, 2011. Williams was hauling his net on Shooter Lake, expecting to find a buffalo fish, but he Instead he discovers a large crocodile entangled in his web. Laurel was 8ft 5in

¼ inch (2.572 m) long, weighs 327 lb (148 kg), and girth is 47 inches (120 cm). According to wildlife officials, the lifespan of the fish has been estimated to be between 50 and 70 years, with one report estimating the life span of gars to be at least 95 years. Williams donated it to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, where it will remain on display. All terrapins have torpedo-shaped bodies, but some of the distinguishing characteristics of adult crocodile gars include large, heavy bodies, broad heads, short, broad snouts, large, sharp teeth, and a double row of teeth

on the upper jaws. They are usually pale brown or olive to a lighter gray or yellow ventral surface. Their dorsal and anal fins are positioned towards the back of their bodies, and their caudal fins are short, asymmetrical, or asymmetrical.


Physiology

Alligator gars have gills, but unlike other species of fish, with few exceptions, they also have a highly vascular bladder lung that complements gill respiration. The bladder not only provides buoyancy but also enables them to breathe air, which is why they are able to live in bodies of water where most other fish would die of suffocation. Its swim bladder is connected to its forelimbs by a small air duct that allows it to breathe or swallow air when the surface is broken, a procedure frequently seen in lakes in the southern United States during the hot summer.

Alligator scales are unlike other fish's scales, which have flexible scales. Their bodies are protected by inelastic, articulated rhomboid-shaped ganoid scales, often with serrated edges, and are composed of a hard inner layer of bone and a tough outer layer of janoid, which essentially aligns with tooth enamel, making it almost impenetrable.


Classification and evolution

Alligator gar was first described by Laspide in 1803. The original name was Crocodile gar, but it was later changed by Wiley in 1976 to Tractostius spoonbills to identify two different species of gar. Synonyms of the atractostius spoon include Lysisostius [sic] ferroux (Ravinsk 1820) and the spoon of Lepsostius (Lysepide 1803). Fossils of the order Spearfish have been collected in Europe from the Cretaceous to the Oligocene periods, in Africa and India from the Cretaceous period, and in North America from the Cretaceous to the modern period. The pike is the only surviving family of cucurbits with seven species, all located in North and Central America. The fossil record traces the presence of crocodile-like gars back to the early Cretaceous period, more than 100 million years ago.


feeding behaviour

The crocodile is a relatively passive gar, and appears to be a solitary fish, a slow, but voracious predator. They are opportunistic nocturnal predators and are primarily piscivores, but they also attack and eat waterfowl, turtles, and small mammals that may float to the surface. Their ambush technique is to perch a few feet below the surface, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim within reach. They lunge forward and, with a sweeping motion, seize their prey, placing it on the double rows of their sharp teeth.

Diet studies have shown that crocodile gars are opportunistic animals, and even scavenging depends on the availability of their preferred food source. They sometimes swallow sportfish, but most stomach content studies indicate that they feed mostly on forage fish such as gizzard shad, invertebrates, and waterfowl. Diet studies have also revealed hunting tools and parts for boat engines in their stomachs.


ovulation

As with most ancestral species, alligator gars are long-lived and have a delayed sexual maturity. Most females do not reach sexual maturity until after their first decade of life, while males reach sexual maturity in half that time. Conditions must be precise for successful spawning to occur. Preparation for spawning begins in the spring with an extended photoperiod and higher water temperatures, but flooding is also necessary to trigger the juvenile. As rivers rise and spread over the floodplain, they create lakes and slugs, flooding the terrestrial vegetation, which in turn provides protection and a nutrient-rich habitat for fry and fry. Once the water temperature reaches 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 28 degrees Celsius), and all other criteria are met, the gar moves to the shallows

The actual mating occurs when the males crowd around the pregnant females, and begin to twist, bump, and slide over the females' crests, an activity that triggers the release of the eggs. Males release clouds of melt to fertilize the eggs as they are released into the water column. The sticky eggs then attach themselves to the submerged plants and development begins. Only a few days are needed for the eggs to hatch into larval fish, and another 10 days or so for the larval fish to detach from the vegetation and begin moving about as young fry. Egg production varies, and is thought to depend on the size of the female. The common formula used to predict the number of eggs a female can produce is 4.1 eggs/g body weight, which gives an average of about 150,000 eggs per egg. Crocodile eggs are bright red and poisonous to humans if ingested.


distribution

normal range

Alligator gars live in a variety of aquatic habitats, but are found mostly in the southern United States in reservoirs and lakes, in the backwaters of low-lying rivers, and in the brackish waters of estuaries and bays. It occurs further south along the Texas Gulf Coast, in Tamaulipas and northern Veracruz, Mexico, however, records from Nicaragua and Costa Rica are considered "suspicious and spoiled". They have been seen occasionally in the Gulf of Mexico. In Texas and Louisiana, large urns are seen breaking the surface in reservoirs, marshes, and salt marshes. It is found throughout the lower Mississippi River Valley and Gulf Coast states in the southern United States and Mexico as far south as Veracruz, including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. Reports indicate that the crocodile gar was numerous throughout most of its northern range, but valid sightings today are rare, possibly only occurring every few years. Historical distribution records point to areas once inhabited by alligators as far north as central Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Iowa, and west-central Illinois, where they are now listed as extirpated. The northernmost verified catch was in Merdocia, Illinois, in 1922. In 2016, there were efforts to reintroduce alligator gars between Tennessee and Illinois.


outside the normal range

A few notable sightings of alligator gar have been reported outside of North America. In November 2008, a broadhead fish, genus Atractosteus, measuring 5.2 to 6.4 ft (1.6 to 2.0 m) was caught in the Caspian Sea north of Isengoli, Turkmenistan, by two fisheries protection officials in Turkmenistan. Its species is uncertain, but it is believed to be a crocodile.

On September 4, 2009, a 3 ft 3 in (0.99 m) crocodile fish was found in Tak Wah Park in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong. Over the next two days, at least 16 more crocodiles, the largest of which was 4.9 feet (1.5 metres) long, were found in ponds in public parks in Hong Kong. Nearby residents reported that alligator gars were released into the ponds by aquarium hobbyists, and lived there for several years. However, after a complaint was filed by a citizen who falsely identified the alligators as crocodiles, terms such as "terrible man-eating fish" began appearing in the headlines of some major local newspapers. Officials from the Tak Wah Recreation and Cultural Services removed all crocodile gars from the ponds because they were concerned that the large, carnivorous fish might harm the children. Not alone, the large, sharp teeth and outward appearance of a crocodile's garment can precipitate unreasonable fear in those unfamiliar with the species.

On January 21, 2011, an alligator fish measuring 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m) was caught in a canal at Pasir Race, Singapore, by two recreational fishermen. The fish was taken to a nearby pond, where the owner confirmed that it was an alligator fish and not an arapaima, as the men had first thought.

Anecdotal reports have been made of crocodile gar being captured in various parts of India, but it is believed to be the result of occasional releases by aquarium hobbyists and the like. In August 2015, a crocodile was found entangled in a piece of cloth inside a well in Dadar, where it had been living for some time. She was rescued by animal activists and returned to the well unharmed. In June 2016, a 3.5-foot crocodile fish was caught from Subhash Sarovar Lake in Kolkata. Other incidents over the years have been random, ranging from captures in coastal waters during environmental assessments to catches in private ponds.

On 27 June 2020, a crocodile measuring 112 cm (3 ft 8 in) was reported dead on the coast of Gunyili Dam, Northern Cyprus. Specialists from the Cyprus Wildlife Research Institute collected the fish and explained its species as crocodile gar. It is suspected that the fish was recently released and could not adapt to the environment and died, however, the fish could have been resident there for years. Anatomy will be applied to find out more.


human uses

Early history

Native Americans of the South and the Caribbean used the Ghanaian scales of alligator gars for arrowheads, breastplates, and as shields to cover plows. The first settlers tanned leather to make strong and durable leather to cover their wooden plows, and to make wallets and various other things. Arkansas also used laurel oil as a repellent for buffalo mosquitoes.

For nearly half a century, alligator fish have been considered "trash fish" or "nuisance species" by state and federal authorities in order to eradicate them to protect plaguefish populations and to prevent alleged attacks on humans, a claim that remains unsupported by evidence other than accidental injuries to humans. out of a bull crocodile that was captured on the deck of the boats. The fishermen participated in the slaughter of thousands of crocodiles, believing that they were doing a great service. In 1992, KUHT 8 became the host station for a public awareness television program that documented the life history cycle of the crocodile gar called Crocodile Gar: Predator or Prey?. It was the first nationally produced and televised documentary about the crocodile gar at a time when it was still referred to as the trash fish. The half-hour program ran for three years as part of the "Strange and Unusual Fish" educational series produced by the Earth Wave Society. It first aired in prime time during the July 1992 sweeps, and received a 2.8/4 rating, making it the number one rated program of the evening for many PBS affiliates. It was a decade before any significant action was taken to protect and conserve the remaining populations of alligator gars in the United States. Among the first to enact restoration and management practices was the Missouri Department of Conservation in partnership with Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.


sports fish

Public perception of the crocodile fish as a garbage fish or a nuisance species has long changed, with increased national and international interest in the species as a sport fish, which some have attributed to features in popular TV shows. Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana allow regulated sport fishing for alligator fish. Texas has one of the best remaining fisheries for alligator gar, and in concert with its efforts to maintain a viable fishery, imposed a one-bag-a-day catch on it in 2009. The Texas state record, and the world record for the largest alligator fish caught on a rod and reel, is 279 lbs ( 127 kg), taken by Bill Valverde on January 1, 1951, on the Rio Grande in Texas. Alligators are also very popular with bow hunters due to their large size, trophy potential, and fighting ability. Marty McClellan set the Texas state fishing record in 2001 with his possession of 290 pounds (130 kg) of alligator gar from the Trinity River.


Commercial exploitation and aquaculture

Declines in alligatorfish populations throughout their historical range have led to the need to monitor wild populations and regulate commercial crops. Crocodile animals are characterized by a high yield of white meat slices and a small percentage of waste compared to body weight. Fried laurel balls, grilled filets, and braised fillets with crab sticks are popular dishes in the southern United States. There is also a small cottage industry that designs and sells jewelry made from military clipping scales of crocodile gar. Some tannerize the leather to produce leather to make lamp shades, purses, and a host of other novelty items. Historically, the price of wild laurel meat sold commercially to wholesale distributors has fluctuated between $1.00/lb all the way up to $2.50/lb. Retail prices in supermarkets and specialty stores ranged from $3.00 to $3.50/lb.

Atractosteus gars, including alligator gars, tropical gars, and Cuban gars, are good candidates for aquaculture, particularly in developing regions, given their rapid growth, disease resistance, easy adaptation to artificial feeds such as juveniles, and ability to tolerate low basic water quality. . Their ability to breathe both air and water eliminates the need for costly aeration systems and other techniques commonly used in aquaculture. In the southern United States, as well as in parts of Mexico and Cuba, broodfish have already been bred, and are kept in their own areas, where they are already a common food fish.


Aquaria

In the southern United States, as well as in parts of Mexico and Cuba, broodfish have already been bred, and are kept in their own areas, where they are already a common food fish. Alligator gar require a very large aquarium or pond and ample resources to thrive in captivity. It is also a popular fish for aquariums and zoos. In many areas keeping alligators as pets is illegal, but they do occasionally appear in fish stores. Crocodile gar is highly valued and hunted in private aquaria, especially in Japan. According to some reports, a large piece of crocodile cloth can fetch up to US$40,000 in what some consider the "Japanese black market". In June 2011, three men from Florida and Louisiana were charged with illegally removing wild alligator gars from the Trinity River in Texas, and attempting to ship them to Japan for private collectors. The indictments resulted from a secret sting operation conducted by special agents with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The charges involved violations of three separate provisions of the Lacey Act, namely conspiracy to present a false label of fish in interstate commerce, conspiracy to transport fish in interstate commerce in violation of state law or regulation, and conspiracy to transport and sell fish in interstate commerce in violation of state law or regulation . Two of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to one, and the government dropped the other two charges against them. A third conspirator went to trial on all three counts, was acquitted on one count, and found guilty on two. The district court sentenced him to 9 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. The case was appealed, and on April 15, 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld the District Court's ruling.

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