Overview

Brief Summary

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)

  • Barrientos-Villalobos, J., & A.E. de Los Monteros. 2008. Genetic variation and recent population history of the tropical gar Atractosteus tropicus Gill (Pises: Lepisosteidae). Journal of Fish Biology 73: 1919-1936.
  • Salgado-Maldonado, G., Moravec, F., Cabañas-Carranza, G., Aguilar-Aguilar, R., Sánchez-Nava, P., Báez-Valé, R., and T. Scholz. 2004. Helminth Parasites of the Tropical Gar, Atractosteus tropicus Gill, from Tabasco, Mexico. Journal of Parasitology 90(2): 260-265
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Inhabit backwaters and slow moving sections of rivers and lakes. Often found in the warm stagnant waters of the lowland. Visible on the surface and resemble floating logs. Enter shallow lakes at the beginning of the dry season to spawn and known to reproduce also in June and July when rains are heaviest and rivers flood their banks providing an ideal spawning habitat of flooded vegetation. Large schools form to cast thousands of eggs in a gelatinous mass in the shallow waters. The adults return again to the river leaving the fry amongst the flooded vegetation (Ref. 36880). The eggs are poisonous to eat (Ref. 4537).
  • Ferraris, C.J. Jr. 2003 Lepisosteidae (Gars). p. 29. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil. (Ref. 36722)
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Description

  Common names: gar (English), pejelagarto (Espanol), lagarto (Espanol)
 
Atractosteus tropicus Gill, 1863

Tropical gar

Elongate, moderately slender and robust; long conical, relatively broad snout; nostrils at front of snout; operculum nearly as deep as long, angular behind and convex below; large fangs on both jaws, in two rows on top jaw and one on bottom; gill rakers large and flattened, with top edge convoluted, 57-62 on first gill arch; pectoral low on flank; pelvics at about middle of body; dorsal (1) and anal fin at rear just before tail; fins without spines; vertebral column continues upwards in a fleshy ridge at base of tail fin; tail a fan with its top edge covered by bony scales; body covered with an armor of large, heavy, rhomboidal scales, attached diagonally to each other by peg-and-socket; 51-56 lateral line scales, 43-48 scales before dorsal fin; anus bordered by three modified scales; dorsal, tail and anal fins with bony scales bordering first ray, top edge of tail fin covered with bony scales.

Adult: dark to pale brown with numerous dark brown blotches above; a dark stripe along flank; sometimes a dark spot on upper base of tail.

Juvenile:  dark above, light below, with a dark stripe along flank; a lower stripe on belly from operculum to anal fin then to tail fin; belly spotted between stripes.


Reaches 125 cm

Depth: 0-10 m

Found in Caribbean and Pacific rivers; enters estuaries of Pacific drainages.

From southern Mexico to Nicaragua on the Pacific coast.
   
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Distribution

Zoogeography

See Map (including site records) of Distribution in the Tropical Eastern Pacific 
 
Global Endemism: All species, TEP non-endemic, New world (East Pacific + West Atlantic), Transisthmian (East Pacific + Atlantic of Central America)

Regional Endemism: All species, Eastern Pacific non-endemic, Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic, Continent, Continent only

Residency: Resident

Climate Zone: Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos)
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Southern Mexico and Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.
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Central America: Caribbean and Pacific drainages of southern Mexico and Central America.
  • Ferraris, C.J. Jr. 2003 Lepisosteidae (Gars). p. 29. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil. (Ref. 36722)
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Depth

Depth Range (m): 0 (S) - 10 (S)
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Physical Description

Morphology

Size

Length max (cm): 125.0 (S)
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Size

Max. size

125 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 36722)); max. published weight: 2,890 g (Ref. 40637)
  • Ferraris, C.J. Jr. 2003 Lepisosteidae (Gars). p. 29. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil. (Ref. 36722)
  • IGFA 2001 Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA, Fort Lauderdale, USA. (Ref. 40637)
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Type Information

Holotype for Atractosteus tropicus
Catalog Number: USNM 6806
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Preparation: Photograph; Radiograph
Collector(s): J. Dow
Locality: Costa Rica, North America
  • Holotype: Gill, T. N. 1863. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 15: 172.
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Ecology

Habitat

Environment

demersal; freshwater
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Depth range based on 4 specimens in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0.2 - 6

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0.2 - 6
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Salinity: Brackish, Freshwater, Non Marine

Inshore/Offshore: Inshore, Inshore Only

Water Column Position: Surface, Near Surface, Mid Water, Water column only

Habitat: Estuary, Freshwater

FishBase Habitat: Pelagic
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Trophic Strategy

Feeding

Feeding Group: Carnivore

Diet: mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs), bony fishes, sea snakes/mammals/turtles/birds
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Diseases and Parasites

Cystoopsis Infestation. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
  • Moravec, F. 1998 Nematodes of freshwater fishes of the neotropical region. 464 p. Praha, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. (Ref. 51153)
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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Egg Type: Benthic, No pelagic larva
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Atractosteus tropicus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Atractosteus tropicus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Not evaluated / Listed

CITES: Not listed
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Threats

Not Evaluated
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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Wikipedia

Tropical gar

The tropical gar, Atractosteus tropicus, is a fish found in freshwaters from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, reported to reach lengths of up to 1.25 m in the wild (albeit often much smaller in captivity). The heaviest individual known weighed 2.89 kg (6.4 lb). The tropical gar looks very similar to the longnose gar in color and markings, but can be distinguished by its shorter, broader snout. The tropical gar's diet consists mainly of cichlids and other fish.

References[edit]


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