Tropical Gar (Atractosteus tropicus) may be found in the backwaters and slow moving sections of rivers, lakes, swamps, and shallow lagoons from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica. They are often found in the warm stagnant waters of lowland areas and may be seen on the surface, where they resemble ﬂoating logs. Juvenile gar feed primarily at night, mainly or exclusively on other ﬁshes, although plants and fruit have been reported as possibly part of the adult diet. Tropical Gar grow rapidly, reaching reproductive size at two years of age. Reproductively mature individuals enter shallow lakes at the beginning of the dry season to spawn. Some adults also reproduce in June and July when rains are heaviest and rivers ﬂood their banks, creating excellent spawning habitat with ﬂooded vegetation. Large schools of Tropical Gar deposit thousands of eggs in a gelatinous mass in the shallow waters. The adults return to the river, leaving the fry in the ﬂooded vegetation. (Barrientos-Villalobos and Espinosa de los Monteros 2008 and references therein)
In Mexico, Tropical Gar have been collected from the Coatzacoalcos River in Southern Veracruz to the Usumacinta River in the states of Tabasco and Chiapas. Isolated populations occur on the Paciﬁc slope of Chiapas. In Central America, this species has been reported from Guatemala, El Salvador (Zanjón El Chino) and Nicaragua (Rio Negro, Lake Managua, and Lake Nicaragua). The southernmost known population inhabits the San Juan River and other small rivers in the Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica. (Barrientos-Villalobos and Espinosa de los Monteros 2008 and references therein)
In response to concerns about the loss of gar populations in Central America in the early 1980s, Costa Rica declared their populations at risk, but other countries have shown less concern. Tropical Gar remain among the main fish consumed by humans in Tabasco, Mexico. In at least parts of their range, Tropical Gar populations are declining, presumably due to some combination of habitat degradation and loss and overexploitation by fisheries. Genetic evidence suggests the possibility that there may be a distinct cryptic “Tropical Gar” species in Guatemala. (Barrientos-Villalobos and Espinosa de los Monteros 2008 and references therein)
43 Tropical Gar collected from Tabasco, Mexico, ranged in length from 270 to 680 mm. These 43 individuals harbored eight species of helminth parasites, including four trematodes, a cestode, and three nematodes. (Salgado-Maldonado et al 2004)
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