"When a fisherman pulled in his line, he knew he had 'something weird': A 40-pound alligator gar. When fisherman Butch Smith pulled his last line up from the Neosho River in Kansas one day last month, he wasn't quite sure what he was looking at. As a 4½-foot, nearly 40-pound fish thrashed around in his boat, Smith called up a buddy and said, 'I've got something weird here.' Smith sent him a photo, and the friend called back with an answer: That's an alligator gar." Story via The Washington Post.
The alligator gar is a ray-finned euryhaline fish related to the bowfin in the infraclass Holostei. It is the biggest species in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fish in North America. The fossil record traces its group's existence back to the Early Cretaceous over 100 million years ago. This rare catch has set off a scramble to understand the origins of the fish and how it wound up in this water system.
"Smith said in an interview: 'I've seen gar, but I ain't never seen a gar with a head shaped like this,' explaining that he first thought his catch may have been a flathead catfish. That's because the alligator gar had never before been documented in the state. Smith got in touch with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the fisheries division confirmed it was an alligator gar, a type of fish whose fossil records it says trace back nearly 100 million years. It gets its name from its wide head and broad snouts that resemble an American alligator."