Angling for Dinosaurs!

We are planning a new symposium focusing on the ecology, conservation, and management of Holostean Fishes (Gars and Bowfin) for the 2016 American Fisheries Society conference in Kansas City, Missouri! Please share with those who may be interested, and see contact info below if you have questions/comments. More information coming soon!

Gar Bowfin Bass Banner 1a

Angling for Dinosaurs: Status and Future Study of the Ecology, Conservation and Management of Ancient Fishes

A special symposium is planned for the 146th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Kansas City, Missouri in August 2016.  This symposium will focus on the biology, ecology, life history, conservation and management of Holostean Fishes (Bowfin and gar species). As anglers’ perceptions of these ancient fishes begin to transform from “rough fish” to “sport fish,” the need for a better understanding of the ecology and conservation status of these species is fundamental to effective management. We intend to highlight past and current research by including presentations related to:

  • Biology/ecology/life history
  • Age and growth evaluations
  • Population genetics & evolutionary perspectives
  • Sampling methodologies
  • Management evaluations
  • Hybridization
  • Human dimensions

If you manage or are conducting research related to Holostean fisheries, please consider participating in this special symposium. The organizers are planning some type of proceedings or special journal issue where presenters can publish their work if they wish, but the final decision will be based on input from participants.  If you have information you’d like to share that would advance our understanding of Ancient Fishes, please contact the organizers for more information.

The organizers are also seeking potential sponsors for this event.  If you or your organization is interested in sponsoring the symposium, please contact the organizers.

Organizers:

Dr. Solomon R. David1,3, Sarah Huck2,4, Dr. Jeffrey A. Stein2,4

1Shedd Aquarium
2Illinois Natural History Survey
3U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center
4University of Illinois

PDF of announcement: AFS 2016 – Gar Bowfin Symposium Announcement FINAL

Follow @PrimitiveFishes & @SFEL_Stein for more updates and information!

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GAR of Thrones: Winter Is Coming

CGS - Winter Is Coming - Banner

“Adaptations by a Fish in the North”

Check out our latest post for The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog, featuring conservation ecology research on the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)! Links to the original research papers included!

Perpetuating the Myth of “Trash Fish” and Wasteful Killing of Native Species

Photo Credit: Matt Nager/Outdoor Life Magazine

Photo Credit: Matt Nager/Outdoor Life Magazine

We will comment further soon, but in short, Outdoor Life Magazine has posted a recent article on a bowfishing tournament. The story exemplifies a continuing systemic problem of wasteful killing and eradication of native species such as gar, buffalo, and bowfin. Using bowfishing to remove invasive carps is one thing, or if bowfishers are eating the native fishes they shoot (there’s no catch-and-release in bowfishing), more power to them. But wasteful killing of native species, often top predators and important components of native food webs and ecosystems, is unnecessary and unacceptable. Take a look at all the photos; if these were piles of dead bass, trout, walleye or muskie, there would be an outrage. Not the same for gar, bowfin, and suckers.

It’s unfortunately legal (and often encouraged) in many areas, as there is money to be made. If you’d like to see a change, please contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Office, and/or other conservation agencies. More to come.

GARssections!

WARNING: GRAPHIC (but educational) – A throwback to our research on Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) ecology in 2011, here’s an impromptu video on sex determination of the species.

In order to better understand species’ population and life history characteristics (and inform conservation and management), we need to know its size and age structure, as well as variation of that structure between males and females. In general, the sex of gars cannot be determined externally, therefore a population sample is dissected for internal examination. We used other structures of the fish (otoliths, rays, bones, etc) for additional analyses.

references:
Ferrara & Irwin 2001
A Standardized Procedure for Internal Sex Identification in Lepisosteidae
http://bit.ly/1AhB4Et

David 2012
Life history, growth, and genetic diversity of the spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) from peripheral and core populations
http://bit.ly/1DdgomL

First Gar-Spotting in the Second City

Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Frank Jakubicek holds up the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) specimen found in the North Branch Channel of the Chicago River in September 2014

Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) biologist Frank Jakubicek holds up the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) specimen found in the North Branch Channel of the Chicago River in September 2014. Photo by IDNR (used with permission).

Earlier this fall (September 2014) during a routine survey on the lookout for Asian carp (Bighead and Silver Carps), Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists instead found a Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) in the North Branch Channel of the Chicago River. This marked the first finding of the species in the Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS), and northwestern-most occurrence of the species in Illinois (and the Great Lakes region).

As you can imagine, we were quite excited to get involved and expound upon the implications of this find! In preparation for an upcoming more detailed commentary and new entries (finally!), we are posting some links to the media accounts of the find, as well as the National Geographic blog by Primitive Fishes author Solomon David. More to come!

DNAinfo Chicago:
Spotted Gar Discovered for the First Time in Chicago Waters

Chicago Tribune:
Primitive fish found for first time in Chicago waterway

Chicago Sun-Times:
Could lone spotted gar be a harbinger of clearer water?
Voices | More spotted gar info

CBS Chicago WBBM Radio:
Biologists Find Spotted Gar for First Time in Chicago Area Waterways

National Geographic Newswatch:
Gar Spotted in the Windy City: First Occurrence of the Primitive Fish

Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus)

Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus)

Here’s a quick shot of one of the gar specimens we donated to Shedd Aquarium; this specimen is on exhibit (along with a Shortnose Gar Lepisosteus platostomus) in the recently renovated “At Home on the Great Lakes” Gallery!

-Phase 3, 4, and 5: formalin, dry, instaGARm–

Apologies for the lack of updates on this project and many others, things have been quite hectic over the past couple months with new research projects, a job transition, and more.  Here is the semi-final stage of the alligator gar head project, and it will remain at this stage for a while until some other pieces of the final project can be brought together.  After defrosting the gar and prying the jaws open, it was preserved in a bucket of formalin for several days.  Once formalin preservation was complete, the head was removed and soaked in water for approximately 24 hours (to reduce amount of formalin).  Finally, the head was dried by sitting in the sun/air-dried for several days.  The final product is what you see here; the photo was taken with Instagram, which I have been experimenting with with several primitive fishes as subjects…album coming soon; and you can see some other photos on our facebook page.–

-Aquaculture of Tropical Gars in Mexico–

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Villahermosa (Tabasco state, Mexico), here is a great video put together by colleagues at the tropical gar aquaculture farm (Otot-Ibam) highlighting their gar production.  Great shots/sequences of gar development and the culture process.  I’ll be presenting at the 4th International Meeting on Lepisosteid Research in mid-June, and we’ll get to tour the farm as well as participate in workshops.

Tropical gar (Atractosteus tropicus) Aquaculture