Biome: Southern Swamps
Biography: The Florida gar is a long slender predatory fish with sharp teeth and an armor of hard diamond-shaped scales. Resembling a floating stick, a gar often drifts motionless among aquatic plants near the water's surface. Like all gars, the Florida gar has an air bladder that acts as an auxiliary lung. This organ enables the fish to take in air at the surface and survive in poorly oxygenated water. The average size of a Florida gar rarely exceeds two feet in length. Spawning occurs in late winter and early spring when the males and females congregate in shallow weedy water. The females then discharge their adhesive eggs, up to 6,000 at one time, among the submerged aquatic plants. Their roe is poisonous to warm-blooded animals, and they are not preyed upon. The newly hatched young possess an adhesive disc-shaped organ on the end of their snouts to keep them attached to vegetation until they are about 3/4-inch long. The attachment organ is lost as the young fish develop into adults. Young gars feed on zooplankton, insect larvae and smaller fish. Adults feed mainly on fish, shrimp and crayfish. They feed by stalking their prey or lying in wait until prey is within striking distance of their long toothy jaws. The primitive Florida gar inhabits freshwater streams, rivers, lakes and canals throughout the Florida peninsula.