Fighting an invasive species with a monster of a fish


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The Alligator gar can reach 2.7m/9ft in length. Image by Alamy.

U.S. scientists are reintroducing Alligator gar into a number of locations in a bid to help them win the war against invasive Asian carp.

The Alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula, is a native species and one of the largest freshwater fish found in North America. But this monster fish disappeared from rivers in several states in the 1960s and populations are now located primarily in the southern portions of the United States extending into Mexico. One of the reasons for its demise was the mistaken belief at the time that the gar threatened sport fish, leading to it being considered a nuisance and resulting in its elimination by authorities.

The Alligator gar’s common name comes from its head’s similarity to that of an alligator, with its long snout and needle-like teeth.

These giant fish have shown a taste for the invasive Asian carp, and it’s hoped that reintroducing the ’living fossils’ — which can reach 2.7m/9ft in length — will have an impact on the carp, which themselves can get to 120cm/4ft and have been spreading and outcompeting native fish for food.