Hybridization among gar species (Pisces: Family Lepisosteidae) has only recently been documented, and relatively few occurrences have been reported. In the Fox River drainage of the Lake Michigan Basin in Wisconsin, apparent hybrids and introgressed individuals (hereafter “hybrids”) of Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) and Shortnose Gar (L. platostomus) were widespread and numerous, constituting about 44% of the total gar population. Presumed hybrids could be readily distinguished by either their intermediate ratio of snout length to snout width or a low ratio, characteristic of Shortnose Gar, coupled with the presence of conspicuous spots on the top of the snout, an occasional Longnose Gar characteristic. Presumed hybrids had genetic matrilines (cytochrome b) of either Shortnose or Longnose Gar. Apparent hybrids occur commonly throughout the Fox River drainage, including the upper and lower Fox River, its major tributary the Wolf River, the riverine lakes Poygan, Winneconne, Butte des Morts, Winnebago, and Little Butte des Morts, and Green Bay, Lake Michigan, near the mouth of the lower Fox River. Evidence exists for possible hybrids in the adjacent Mississippi River basin and the Missouri River basin, but they appear to be less common and more localized. Extensive hybridization and introgression in the Fox River drainage may have been facilitated by the close phylogenetic relationship of Longnose and Shortnose Gar, the much greater abundance of Longnose relative to Shortnose Gar in the Fox River drainage, the apparent relatively recent colonization of the Fox River drainage by the Shortnose Gar, and the substantial modification and loss of gar spawning habitat in the Fox River drainage caused by dams and artificial water level regulation.
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