Science

Living fossil’: Fisherman captures nearly 40-pound alligator gar in Kansas

An alligator gar, known as a ‘living fossil,’ has been caught in Kansas for the first time ever – and no one knows how it got there.

The 39.5-pound, 4.5-foot fish, which is referred to as a ‘living fossil’ as records can trace them back nearly 100 million years,’ was caught by angler Danny Lee Smith in the Neosho River on a September 20 fishing trip, according to a statement from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

At present, experts are not sure how the fish wound up in the Neosho River, but are considering a few different options in order to figure out the mystery.

They will look at the fish’s fins to see if it came from another state. 

Smith caught the fish in the Neosho River on a September 20 fishing trip

An alligator gar was caught in Kansas for the first time last month, as it does not live in the state

At present, experts are not sure how the fish wound up in the Neosho River (pictured)

At present, experts are not sure how the fish wound up in the Neosho River (pictured)

‘Because most populations of this species can be distinguished from one another with a sample of the fish’s fins, another option we’re considering is genetic identification,’ said KDWP assistant director of Fisheries research, Jeff Koch. 

‘This will tell us if the fish came from an existing population in another state.’

Alligator gar are known for their distinctive long snouts and ability to grow 10 feet in length and can weigh up to 350 pounds.

The fish, which can reach up to 10 feet in length, were once spotted quite frequently throughout the Mississippi River, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service added. 

They have traditionally been spotted in Ohio, parts of Missouri and Illinois all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico

They have traditionally been spotted in Ohio, parts of Missouri and Illinois all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico

They have traditionally been spotted in Ohio, parts of Missouri and Illinois all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, but never Kansas. 

‘When it came up out of the water the first time … I was shocked, I was stunned. I’ve seen gar jump, but nothing like this one did,’ angler Danny Lee Smith, who caught the fish, told CNN

‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, I’m sure.’ 

Given the long distance from where they are usually found, experts are not sure how the alligator gar wound up in Kansas’s Neosho River.

If the aforementioned option does not provide an answer, Koch said the experts could use microchemistry.

This involves measuring the element proportion of a bone on a fish and comparing it to the elements in the surrounding water. 

It likely is not someone’s pet that got lost or was released into the wild once it ‘became too large,’ Doug Nygren, KDWP Fisheries Division director, explained.

‘These techniques should allow us to determine which mode of introduction occurred.”

The state agency notes that bringing non-native species into the area creates the risk of spreading disease and it is illegal, whether it’s native or not.

‘Transporting and releasing fish risks spreading other harmful species such as microscopic zebra mussels, fish diseases, or aquatic vegetation that might be present in the water used to transport the fish,’ Chris Steffen, KDWP Aquatic Nuisance Species coordinator, warned.

Alligator gar are known for their distinctive long snouts and ability to grow 10 feet in length and can weigh up to 350 pounds

Alligator gar are known for their distinctive long snouts and ability to grow 10 feet in length and can weigh up to 350 pounds

There are several species of gar, but alligator gars have been used to make a number of different items, including arrowheads, jewelry and tools from the fish’s scales.

It has also been used for leather goods and its oils were used as insect repellant, the USFWS added.

The fish, which had been in abundance in the mid-20th century, were overfished because of an incorrect belief that it ate fish that people also consumed.

It is now considered rare and endangered, according to the University of Florida

WHY ARE ALLIGATOR GAR SO APPEALING TO HUMANS?

Alligator gar are known for their long bodies, long snouts and diamond-shaped interlocking scales.

It has multiple fins, with the tail fin rounded and its dorsal and anal fins are towards the back of the body.

Some versions of alligator gar can reach up to 10 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds.

Like their reptilian namesake, adult alligator gar have two rows of large teeth on their upper jaw.

These fish, which can live for decades in some cases, have been used to make all sorts of consumer goods, such as arrowheads, jewelry and tools from the fish’s scales.

It has also been used for leather goods and its oils were used as insect repellant, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said.

They are dangerous to humans, but reports of attacks are rare. Their eggs, which hatch in a couple of days, are considered poisonous if eaten by a person.

 


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