Howdy Explorers! Welcome to the first week of September. Now, you may have noticed that I have been somewhat biased toward marine creatures thus far. This must be remedied, for there are many freshwater creatures that are incredibly fascinating. So, for the four weeks of September, I will feature a freshwater creature each week for our Creature of the Week. Our first creature in this theme month is the longnose gar.
Now, the longnose gar is also known as the needlenose gar. It is one of seven species still in existence that belongs to the gar family, Lepisosteidae. 1 The gar family is a member of an ancient order of fish, Lepisosteiformes, which contain many now-extinct members, including other gar species, whose fossils date back to the late Cretaceous. 1 For those who didn't take a geological, archaeological, or paleontological course in college, the end of the Cretaceous was marked by the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Gars, along with other members of Lepisosteiformes, are considered "primitive" ray-finned fish. 1 On a side note, the evolution of and scientific classification of the members within the superclass Osteichthyes, aka the "bony fish", is a very interesting subject, which I urge you to research if you are interested.
Longnose gar are primarily freshwater fish, but they are found in certain areas with brackish water. 2 Brackish water refers to areas where freshwater and saltwater meet and mix, creating waters that are substantially diluted, though still contain salt. Longnose gar range from Florida to Quebec, and can extend as far west as Texas. 2 These fish are generally found in slower moving waters. 2 They prefer areas rich with vegetation with warm and relatively shallow waters. 1
Photo by Matt1583The most distinctive feature of gars are the elongate mouth. Longnose gars have very long and slender mouths with sharp teeth that aid in capturing and holding onto prey, allowing them to thrash their heads side to side to tear. 2 Obviously, one can gather that gars are predators, specifically ambush predators, preying primarily on other fish species.2 They have the characteristic gar bodyshape: elongate and cylindrical with diamond-shaped scales.1 Longnose gars can grow up to 6 feet in length, and they can live between 17-20 years.1 These creatures are slow growing and take a while to reach sexual maturity: females become mature at 6 years, while males are mature at 4 years of age. 2
Read more about these ancient fish at the links below:
2. Goddard, Nate.http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/LongnoseGar/LongnoseGar.html