Gars (or garpike) are members of the Lepisosteiformes (or Semionotiformes), an ancient holosteian order of ray-finned fish; fossils from this order are known from the Late Jurassic onwards. The family Lepisosteidae includes seven living species of fish in two genera that inhabit fresh, brackish, and occasionally marine, waters of eastern North America, Central America and the Caribbean islands.[2][3] Gars have elongated bodies that are heavily armored with ganoid scales,[4] and fronted by similarly elongated jaws filled with long, sharp teeth. All of the gars are relatively large fish, but the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is the largest, as specimens have been reported to be 3 m (9.8 ft) in length;[5] however, they typically grow to 2 m (6.5 ft) and weigh over 45 kg (100 lb).[6] Unusually, their vascularised swim bladders can function as lungs,[7] and most gars surface periodically to take a gulp of air. Gar flesh is edible and the hard skin and scales of gars are used by humans; however their eggs are highly toxic.

Temporal range: Kimmeridgian–Recent[1]
Lepisosteus oculatus
Spotted gar
(Lepisosteus oculatus)
Scientific classification
O. P. Hay, 1929
G. Cuvier, 1825


The name gar was originally used for a species of needlefish (Belone belone) found in the North Atlantic and likely taking its name from the Old English word for "spear".[8] Belone belone is now more commonly referred to as the "garfish" or "gar fish" to avoid confusion with the North American gars of the family Lepisosteidae.[9] Confusingly, the name "garfish" is commonly used for a number of other species of the related genera Strongylura, Tylosurus and Xenentodon of the family Belonidae.

The genus name Lepisosteus comes from the Greek lepis meaning "scale" and osteon meaning "bone".[10] Atractosteus is similarly derived from Greek, in this case from atraktos, meaning arrow.[11]


Fossil gars are found in Europe, India, South America, and North America, indicating that in times past, these fish had a wider distribution than they do today. Gars are considered to be a remnant of a group of bony fish that flourished in the Mesozoic, and are most closely related to the bowfin. The distribution of the Gar Lepisosteidae in North America, lies mainly in the shallow, brackish waters off of Texas and Louisiana, and off the eastern coast of Mexico.[12][13] A few populations are also present in the Great Lakes region of the United States, living in similar shallow waters.[14]


Gar shedd
Large gar in an aquarium


Atractosteus fossil

Gar bodies are elongated, heavily armored with ganoid scales, and fronted by similarly elongated jaws filled with long, sharp teeth. Their tails are heterocercal, and the dorsal fins are close to the tail.[15]

Swim bladder

As their vascularised swim bladders can function as lungs,[7] most gars surface periodically to take a gulp of air, doing so more frequently in stagnant or warm water when the concentration of oxygen in the water is low. Experiments on the swim bladder has shown that the temperature of the water affects which respiration method the gar will use: aerial or aquatic. They will increase the aerial breathing rate (breathing air) as temperature of the water is increased. Gars can live completely submerged in oxygenated water without access to air and remain healthy while also being able to survive in deoxygenated water if allowed access to air.[16] This adaptation can be the result of environmental pressures and behavioral factors.[17] As a result of this organ, they are extremely resilient and able to tolerate conditions that most other fish could not survive in.

Pectoral girdle

Lepisosteidae Pectoral Girdle
Medial and lateral view of Lepisosteidae pectoral girdle

The gar has paired appendages, including pectoral fins, pelvic fins, while also having an anal fin, caudal fin, and a dorsal fin.[18] The bone structures within the fins are important to study as they can show homology throughout the fossil record. Specifically, the pelvic girdle resembles that of other actinopterygians yet still having some of its own characteristics. Gars have a postcleithrun - which is a bone that is lateral to the scapula, but do not have postpectorals. Proximally to the postcleithrum, the supracleithrum is important as it plays a critical role in opening the gar's jaws. This structure has a unique internal coracoid lamina only present in the Gar species. Proximal to the supracleithrum is the posttemporal bone, which is significantly smaller than other actinopterygians. Gars also have no clavicle bone, although there have been observations of elongated plates within the area.[19]

Lepisosteus platostomus - fins
Shortnose gar


All the gars are relatively large fish, but the alligator gar Atractosteus spatula is the largest. The largest alligator gar ever caught and officially recorded was 8 ft 5 14 in (2.572 m) long, weighed 327 lb (148 kg), and was 47 in (120 cm) around the girth.[20] Even the smaller species, such as Lepisosteus oculatus, are large, commonly reaching lengths of over 60 cm (2.0 ft), and sometimes much more.[21]


Gars tend to be slow-moving fish except when striking at their prey. They prefer the shallow and weedy areas of rivers, lakes, and bayous, often congregating in small groups.[2] They are voracious predators, catching their prey with their needle-like teeth, obtained with a sideways strike of the head.[21] They feed extensively on smaller fish and invertebrates such as crabs.[5] Gars are found across much of North America (for example Lepisosteus osseus).[2] Although gars are primarily found in freshwater habitats, several species enter brackish waters and a few, most notably Atractosteus tristoechus, are sometimes found in the sea. Some gars travel from lakes and rivers through sewers to get to ponds.[2][22]


The gar family contains seven extant species, in two genera:[7]

Cladogram of living gars[23]

A. tropicus

A. tristoechus

A. spatula


L. oculatus

L. platyrhincus

L. osseus

L. platostomus

Family Lepisosteidae


Kaimanfische (Lepisosteus)
Lepisosteus platyrhincus

Gar flesh is edible, and sometimes available in markets, but unlike the sturgeon they resemble, their eggs are highly toxic to humans.[25] Gar eggs are toxic because of a protein toxin called ichthyotoxins.[26] The protein can be denatured when brought to a temperature of 120 degrees celsius.[27] When cooking roe, the temperature does not typically get that high so the protein stays intact and causes severe symptoms. It was once thought that the production of the toxin in gar roe was an evolutionary adaptation to provide protection for the eggs. However, bluegills and channel catfish were fed gar eggs and remained healthy, even though they are the natural predators of the gar eggs. Crayfish were not immune to the toxin and most of the crayfish that ate the roe died. The immunity to the ichthyotoxins in bluegills and catfish suggests that the toxin came about for a reason other than keeping the gar eggs safe. It may just be a coincidence that the roe is toxic to humans and crayfish.[26]

Significance to humans

Several species are traded as aquarium fish.[21] The hard skin and scales of the gar were used by humans. Native Americans used the scales of the gar as arrowheads, native Caribbeans used the skin for breastplates, and early American pioneers covered the blades of their plows in gar skin.[28] Not much is known about the precise function of the gar in Native American religion and culture, but besides using the gar, Creek and Chickasaw people have ritual "garfish dances".[29]

Gar jumping out of water to eat horsefly
A gar leaps out of the water.


  1. ^ a b Paulo M. Brito; Jésus Alvarado-Ortega; François J. Meunier (2017). "Earliest known lepisosteoid extends the range of anatomically modern gars to the Late Jurassic". Scientific Reports. 7: Article number 17830. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-17984-w.
  2. ^ a b c d "Family Lepisosteidae - Gars". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  3. ^ Sterba, G: Freshwater Fishes of the World, p. 609, Vista Books, 1962
  4. ^ Sherman, Vincent R.; Yaraghi, Nicholas A.; Kisailus, David; Meyers, Marc A. (2016-12-01). "Microstructural and geometric influences in the protective scales of Atractosteus spatula". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 13 (125): 20160595. doi:10.1098/rsif.2016.0595. ISSN 1742-5689. PMC 5221522. PMID 27974575.
  5. ^ a b "Atractosteus spatula - Alligator gar". Retrieved 2007-07-19.
  6. ^ "Atractosteus spatula". Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  7. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Lepisosteidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
  8. ^ "Gar". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  9. ^ "Common Names of Belone belone". Archived from the original on 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  10. ^ "Genera reference detail". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  11. ^ "Genera reference detail". Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  12. ^ "Atractosteus spatula :: Florida Museum of Natural History". Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  13. ^ "Lepisosteus oculatus (Spotted gar)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  14. ^ "Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) - Species Profile". Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  15. ^ Wiley, Edward G. (1998). Paxton, J.R.; Eschmeyer, W.N., eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
  16. ^ Renfro, Larry; Hill, Loren (1970). "Factors Influencing the Aerial Breathing and Metabolism of Gars (Lepisosteus)". The Southwestern Naturalist. 15 (1): 45–54. JSTOR 3670201.
  17. ^ Hill, Loren (1972). "Social Aspects of Aerial Respiration of Young Gars (Lepisosteus)". The Southwestern Naturalist. 16 (3): 239–247. JSTOR 3670060.
  18. ^ Becker, George (1983). "Fishes of Wisconsin" (PDF): 239–248.
  19. ^ Malcolm, Jollie. "Development of Cranial and Pectoral Girdle Bones of Lepisosteus with a Note on Scales". Copeia. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH). JSTOR 1445204.
  20. ^ "Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula)". Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  21. ^ a b c Kodera H. et al.: Jurassic Fishes. TFH, 1994, ISBN 0-7938-0086-2
  22. ^ Monks N. (editor): Brackish Water Fishes, pp 322–324. TFH 2006, ISBN 0-7938-0564-3
  23. ^ Jeremy J. Wright, Solomon R. David, Thomas J. Near: Gene trees, species trees, and morphology converge on a similar phylogeny of living gars (Actinopterygii: Holostei: Lepisosteidae), an ancient clade of ray-finned fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63 (2012) 848–856 PDF
  24. ^ Cavin, Lionel; Martin, Michel; Valentin, Xavier (1996). "Occurrence of Atractosteus africanus (actinopterygii, lepisosteidae) in the early Campanien of Ventabren (Bouches-du-Rhône, France). Paleobiogeographical implications". Revue de Paléobiologie. 15 (1): 1–7.
  25. ^ "Gar". Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  26. ^ a b Ostrand, Kenneth G.; Thies, Monte L.; Hall, Darrell D.; Carpenter, Mark (1996). "Gar ichthyootoxin: Its effect on natural predators and the toxin's evolutionary function". The Southwestern Naturalist. 41 (4): 375–377. JSTOR 30055193.
  27. ^ Fuhrman, Frederick A.; Fuhrman, Geraldine J.; Dull, David L.; Mosher, Harry S. (1969-05-01). "Toxins from eggs of fishes and amphibia". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 17 (3): 417–424. doi:10.1021/jf60163a043. ISSN 0021-8561.
  28. ^ Burton, Maurice; Robert Burton (2002). The international wildlife encyclopedia, Volume 9. Marshall Cavendish. p. 929. ISBN 978-0-7614-7266-7. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  29. ^ Spitzer, Mark (2010). Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America's Most Misunderstood Fish. U of Arkansas P. pp. 118–19. ISBN 978-1-55728-929-2.

External links

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AIM-4 Falcon

The Hughes AIM-4 Falcon was the first operational guided air-to-air missile of the United States Air Force. Development began in 1946; the weapon was first tested in 1949. The missile entered service with the USAF in 1956.

Produced in both heat-seeking and radar-guided versions, the missile served during the Vietnam War with USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II units. Designed to shoot down slow bombers with limited maneuverability, it was ineffective against maneuverable fighters over Vietnam. Lacking proximity fusing, the missile would only detonate if a direct hit was scored. Only five kills were recorded.

With the AIM-4's poor kill record rendering the F-4 ineffective at air-to-air combat, the fighters were modified to carry the USN-designed AIM-9 Sidewinder missile instead, which was already carried on USN and USMC F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader jet fighters. The Sidewinder was much more effective and continues to serve the armed forces of the United States and numerous allied nations to this day.

Alligator gar

The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is a ray-finned euryhaline fish related to the bowfin in the infraclass Holostei . It is the largest species in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fishes in North America. The fossil record traces its existence back to the Early Cretaceous over a hundred million years ago.

Gars are often referred to as "primitive fishes", or "living fossils" because they have retained some morphological characteristics of their earliest ancestors, such as a spiral valve intestine which is also common to the digestive system of sharks, and the ability to breathe both air and water. Their common name was derived from their resemblance to the American alligator, particularly their broad snout and long, sharp teeth. Anecdotal evidence in several scientific reports suggest that an alligator gar can grow up to 10 ft (3.0 m) in length, but in 2011, the largest alligator gar ever caught and officially recorded was 8 ft 5 1⁄4 in (2.572 m) long, weighed 327 lb (148 kg), and was 47 in (120 cm) around the girth.

The body of an alligator gar is torpedo-shaped, usually brown or olive fading to a lighter gray or yellow ventral surface. Their scales are not like the scales of other fishes; rather, they are ganoid scales which are bone-like, diamond-shaped scales, often with serrated edges, and covered by an enamel-like substance. Ganoid scales are nearly impenetrable and are excellent protection against predation. Unlike other gar species, the upper jaw of an alligator gar has a dual row of large, sharp teeth which are used to impale and hold prey. Alligator gar are stalking, ambush predators, primarily piscivores, but they will also ambush and eat water fowl and small mammals they find floating on the water's surface.

Populations of alligator gar have been extirpated from much of their historic range as a result of habitat destruction, indiscriminate culling, and unrestricted harvests. Populations are now located primarily in the southern portions of the United States extending into Mexico. They are considered euryhaline because they can adapt to varying salinities ranging from freshwater lakes and swamps to brackish marshes, estuaries, and bays along the Gulf of Mexico.

For nearly a half-century, alligator gar were considered "trash fish", or a "nuisance species" detrimental to sport fisheries, so were targeted for elimination by state and federal authorities in the United States. The 1980s brought a better understanding of the ecological balance necessary to sustain an ecosystem, and eventually an awareness that alligator gar were no less important than any other living organism in the ecosystems they inhabit. Over time, alligator gar were afforded some protection by state and federal resource agencies. They are also protected under the Lacey Act which makes it illegal to transport certain species of fish in interstate commerce when in violation of state law or regulation. Several state and federal resource agencies are monitoring populations in the wild, and have initiated outreach programs to educate the public. Alligator gar are being cultured in ponds, pools, raceways, and tanks by federal hatcheries for mitigation stocking, by universities for research purposes, and in Mexico for consumption.

Bardeh Gar-e Mohuk

Bardeh Gar-e Mohuk (Persian: بردگرمهوك‎, also Romanized as Bardeh Gar-e Mohūḵ) is a village in Keshvar Rural District, Papi District, Khorramabad County, Lorestan Province, Iran. In the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported.

Bardeh Gar-e Yek Vark

Bardeh Gar-e Yek Vark (Persian: بردگر1وارك‎, also known as Bardeh Gar) is a village in Keshvar Rural District, Papi District, Khorramabad County, Lorestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported.

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Carmarthenshire (; Welsh: Sir Gaerfyrddin; [siːr gɑːɨrˈvərðɪn] or informally Sir Gâr) is a unitary authority in southwest Wales, and one of the historic counties of Wales. The three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford. Carmarthen is the county town and administrative centre.

Carmarthenshire has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The county town was founded by the Romans, and the region was part of the Principality of Deheubarth in the High Middle Ages. After invasion by the Normans in the 12th and 13th centuries it was subjugated, along with other parts of Wales, by Edward I of England. There was further unrest in the early 15th century, when the Welsh rebelled under Owain Glyndŵr, and during the English Civil War.

Carmarthenshire is mainly an agricultural county, apart from the southeastern part which at one time was heavily industrialised with coal mining, steel-making and tin-plating. In the north of the county the woollen industry was very important in the 18th century.The economy depends on agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism. With the decline in its industrial base, and the low profitability of the livestock sector, West Wales was identified in 2014 as the worst-performing region in the United Kingdom along with the South Wales Valleys.Carmarthenshire, as a tourist destination, offers a wide range of outdoor activities. Much of the coast is fairly flat; it includes the Millennium Coastal Park, which extends for ten miles to the west of Llanelli; the National Wetlands Centre; a championship golf course; and the harbours of Burry Port and Pembrey. Further west are the sandy beaches at Llansteffan and Pendine, and Dylan Thomas' boathouse at Laugharne. There are a number of medieval castles, hillforts and standing stones in the county.

Chah Kar

Chah Kar (Persian: چهكار‎, also Romanized as Chah Kār; also known as Chāh-e Gār and Chāh Gār) is a village in Band-e Zarak Rural District, in the Central District of Minab County, Hormozgan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 388, in 72 families.

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Gar Abdy

Gar Abdy (Persian: گر عبدئ‎, also Romanized as Gar ʿAbdy) is a village in Irandegan Rural District, Irandegan District, Khash County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 15, in 4 families.

Gar Faqir

Gar Faqir (Persian: گارفقير‎, also Romanized as Gār Faqīr) is a village in Bahu Kalat Rural District, Dashtiari District, Chabahar County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 495, in 118 families.

Gar Kandi, Sistan and Baluchestan

Gar Kandi (Persian: گار کندي‎, also Romanized as Gār Kandī and Gar Kandī; also known as Kār Gandī) is a village in Polan Rural District, Polan District, Chabahar County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 311, in 69 families.

Gar Kandi Rasul Bakhsh Bazar

Gar Kandi Rasul Bakhsh Bazar (Persian: گارکندي رسول بخش بازار‎, also Romanized as Gār Kandī Rasūl Bakhsh Bāzār; also known as Gar Kandī) is a village in Polan Rural District, Polan District, Chabahar County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 418, in 78 families.

Gar Kud

Gar Kud (Persian: گركود‎, also Romanized as Gar Kūd; also known as Bakhshī, Gar-e Kedū, Gar Kadū, and Gar Kodū) is a village in Doshman Ziari Rural District, Doshman Ziari District, Mamasani County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 161, in 47 families.

Gary, Iran

Gary (Persian: گرئ‎, also Romanized as Gar’) is a village in Kahnuk Rural District, Irandegan District, Khash County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 33, in 10 families.

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Kola Gar Sara, Babol

Kola Gar Sara (Persian: كلاگرسرا‎, also Romanized as Kolā Gar Sarā) is a village in Firuzjah Rural District, Bandpey-ye Sharqi District, Babol County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 116, in 27 families.

Qaleh Gar-e Fahlian

Qaleh Gar-e Fahlian (Persian: قلعه گرفهليان‎, also Romanized as Qal‘eh Gar-e Fahlīān; also known as Gar-e Fahlīān, Qal‘eh Gar, Qal‘eh-ye Gar, Qal‘eh-ye Gardaneh, and Qal’eh-ye Gardū) is a village in Fahlian Rural District, in the Central District of Mamasani County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 412, in 97 families.

Zardin Gar, Khash

Zardin Gar (Persian: زردين گر‎, also Romanized as Zardīn Gar) is a village in Kahnuk Rural District, Irandegan District, Khash County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 34, in 8 families.

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