Pictured above is the Spotted Gar, Lepisosteus oculatus of the family Lepisosteidae. These creatures have been swimming in the waters of North America since the Late Cretaceous period some 65 to a 100 million years ago.
Spotted Gar are not as large as some members of the Gar family like the Alligator Gar which can grow to over 8 feet long and 160 pounds or more. Instead, the Spotted Gar averages around 3 feet long as adults and can weigh 8 pounds or more.
Spotted gar prefer quiet, clear pools of fresh water that have aquatic plants and algae. They make their living as a nocturnal ambush predator on crayfish, various kinds of minnows, small bluegill, sunfish, and crappie. Young gar have been known to eat many kinds of insects and their larvae. They have been shown to be valuable parts of the ecosystem where they occur and have been shown to prey primarily on non-game fish.
Spotted Gar inhabit the waters of the Mississippi Basin from Ontario Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Habitat loss and pollution have reduced their numbers in the northern parts of their range but they can be found throughout the southern U. S.
All members of the Gar family have a vascularized swim bladder that allows them to gulp air at the surface of the water and be able to live in waters that lack enough oxygen to support them otherwise. You can read more about this living fossil at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web.