Historical record of an alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula (Lacépède, 1803), captured on the floodplain of the Middle Mississippi River at Columbia, Illinois, USA

Thomas M. Keevin
Neal H. Lopinot, Missouri State University


Historical photographs, newspapers, and interviews can provide useful information on the abundance, distribution, and habitat use of rare fish species and can be useful in the development of conservation and management plans for target species. We report on the historical occurrence of Atractosteus spatula (alligator gar) on the Middle Mississippi River (MMR) floodplain near Columbia, Illinois (Monroe County), approximately 280.5 river kilometers above the Ohio River (River Mile 168) during the spring of 1937. Based on measurements taken from a photograph of a captured specimen and Mr. Paul Lopinot's recollection of the specimen's weight, the alligator gar was approximately 2.0 m total length and weighed 60 kg. An additional 25–30 large alligator gar were observed on the floodplain approximately 3.6 km from the river. The loss of seasonally inundated floodplain habitat due to construction of an extensive agricultural levee system on the MMR may be a contributing factor to the decline of the alligator gar in the northern portion of its range.