Gar Serve as Fork’s Very Own Living Fossil
All throughout The Parklands, visitors can see a wide range of animals, from familiar bumblebees at work in our Pollinator Garden to creatures we’re less accustomed to, like this Longnose Gar caught in The Strand, near the Cane Run Paddling Access. In addition to the Longnose, the Gar family consists of 6 other varieties, only 3 of which are found in Kentucky: Alligator, Shortnose, and Spotted. Easily identifiable by their characteristic snouts, the name “Gar” actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning for spear. The diagram below from our friends at Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife shows the differences in the head of each of Kentucky’s Gar population.
Even though we don’t see them very often, Gar have actually been around for 100 million years – so long that some refer to them as living fossils. Historically, Gar inhabited freshwater areas throughout the world, from Europe to Africa, South Asia to South America. Today, they’re found mostly in the freshwater sources (like rivers, reservoirs, and streams) of just North America. We shouldn’t be surprised that Gar have been around for so long though, since they have several features that contribute to their survival.
For starters, Gar can survive in water with particularly low oxygen conditions, thanks to their swim bladder. This swim bladder functions similarly to a lung, letting Gars take in air at the water’s surface. Another asset of the Gar is their long bodies. Covered in hard, shiny scales, these bodies (which can be as long as 9 feet for the Alligator Gar) facilitate quick movements to ambush prey such as carp or buffalo fish. When not catching prey, Gars tend to rest just below the water’s surface either alone or in spread-out groups.
Regarding reproduction, Gar fertilization occurs externally, and it’s important to remember that the adhesive eggs are toxic to humans! Spawning happens in the spring and summer months.
The Parklands is excited to share more information about Gar and other creatures during the Wildlife Biology Summer Camp, which will take place the week of July 10 for kids in grades 4 – 6.
Story by Arlana Agiliga, Yale Bulldog Intern
A rising senior at Yale University, Arlana came on board in May 2015 as a Bulldog Intern from the group Bulldogs in the Bluegrass, and will be with The Parklands team through the end of July. Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is an internship program that brings Yale students to Louisville to gain hands-on experience at a number of different organizations.
While working with The Parklands this summer, Arlana plans to experience several different departments, including development, communications, and even gardening! Through previous internships, Arlana has worked in the fields of social entrepreneurship, law, and housing services. In her free time, she enjoys listening to Latin music, playing sports, and eating dessert. Originally from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Arlana looks forward to not only exploring The Parklands this summer, but also the city of Louisville.