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.
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!
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.–
-In continuation of the alligator gar head/skull project, here are some photos of phase 2. The head has completely thawed, which causes the muscles and joints to relax and allows for the jaws to be opened (not without some prying however). The following series of photos shows various shots of the thawed alligator gar head before entering phase 3.
Here is a shot of the fully thawed head:
A posterior shot of the head, showing muscle, nerve, and bone detail:
Dorsal shot of the head; note the distinct bony plates comprising the skull:
A shot of the head with jaws pried open; note the prominent secondary row of teeth in the upper jaw, which is characteristic of the genus Atractosteus:
Straight into the mouth of the beast. Note the rounded forked tongue; the indentation allows for adjustment of prey fishes to go down head first:
For scale (no pun intended!) you can compare to the size of my hand:
-NOTE: I originally made this post on LEPISOSTEIDAE.net, however, a gar of this size definitely deserves some extra attention!–
-See photo and link for the story of a giant alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) that was recently bowfished in Texas. This alligator gar is one of the largest in recent history (over 8′ long and over 300 lbs), even though an accurate weight could not be determined. Information is not provided as to whether or not the large female gator gar had already spawned by the time of capture (it was bowfished out of a spawning group); it would be unfortunate to lose those good genes from the pool. It would also be interesting to analyze aging structures (otoliths, scales) from the individual to determine how old this fish was (alligator gars have been aged to over 70 years). This fish at least gives hope that there are still monster alligator gars still out there…and hopefully those beasts are able to evade capture for many more years.