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Species Spotlight: Gar

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When we think of scary monsters, we think of the fictional characters that pop up in the movies. The voracious Dracula, the shambling monster of Frankenstein, or the uncontrollable wolfman. Perhaps the most terrifying creature of all, though, is the one that dwells not in our nightmares, but in the lakes and rivers of the southeastern United States.

Belonging to the family Lepisosteidae, the gar fish is a truly terrifying creature worthy of its own horror film. Here are some reasons why gar are one of the most interesting fish species:

The modern gar is about as close as we can get to seeing a dinosaur

Whether you’re looking at a longnose gar or an alligator gar, the details on this terrifying fish remain the same: sharp teeth, long snout, sleek, powerful body. This is because, with some variation among the species, the gar has remained more or less the same for the past 100 million years.

Gar are living weapons

The term ‘gar’ comes from the Anglo Saxon word ‘garpike,’ which literally means ‘spear.’ With their slim, long bodies and their sharp teeth, it’s no wonder. Even their diamond shaped scales form a thick armor on this beast, making it perpetually battle ready.

They can grow to enormous proportions

Though the average gar tends to grow to only three or four feet in length, it’s this fish’s monstrous potential that makes it a real terror. Gar can grow up to ten feet in length, weighing as much as 300 pounds!

They just won’t die

The gar is an amazingly resilient fish, capable of living even in brackish, oxygen deprived water by using its swim bladder as an extra lung and even supplementing its oxygen supply by breathing actual air. This is one of the chief reasons the gar has remained so unchanged over the last 100 million years.

Their eggs are highly toxic

Gar meat, while edible, is bony and unpopular, but it is far better than trying to dine on this fish’s eggs, which are highly toxic.

To be fair, the gar has been confirmed to kill about as many people as the fabled vampire or wolfman. In spite of their vicious appearance, there is no record of any gar actively hunting or attacking humans.

All the same, with those shark teeth, they can still be the stuff of nightmares. If you’re looking for a scary Halloween costume to spook the kids, perhaps you should consider dressing up as this beast!

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Species Spotlight: Gar