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What the Heck is that?

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That is what my friend said when I snapped a picture of it and sent it to her. And it was my first thought too when I saw it washed up on the mudflats of Lake Tsala Apopka. It looked half-gator and half-fish. You see, I am relatively new to Florida and in New York we do not have such strange looking fish in our fresh water.  My educated guess was that it was a gar and since it had an alligator head, could it be called an alligator gar? Is there such a beast? Well, yes.

I knelt over this fish and pondered how its desiccated body ended up here on the edge of the lake. This fish has few enemies, especially when it reaches full size of over 6 feet. If this is a female it could have lived up to 50 years; if it was a male – half that age. (Sound familiar guys?)

A splash on the water draws my attention to the plethora of small fish that forms the basis of the food web that the gar is intertwined with. The alligator gar is protected in Floirda becasue it is such an important part of the ecosystem and has declined in recent years. I stood up and looked out over the lake and wondered how many more alligator gar are here and what would happen if these unique fish disappeared from this ecosystem. Hopefully, this will never happen.

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