AFS scientists from across the country gathered for an exciting day centered on an understudied and historically undesirable taxa of sport fish, the gars and Bowfin (Holosteans). The symposium convened 15 speakers to share research, management, and personal experiences working with these “dinosaur fishes.” A day of presentations ranged from morphological and genetic approaches for describing new species of Bowfin to age and growth methodologies indicating gars may live much longer than previously understood. The diversity of talks provided a launching point for a week of vibrant discussion, discovery, and development of future collaborations. The session was capped by a presentation by author Mark Spitzer who has written extensively about these enigmatic fishes. The discussions that followed revealed the strength of the bond created by the passionate interest attendees have for well-informed sustainable management of ancient fishes. Attendees agreed that collaborative efforts across jurisdictions are needed to support the growing demand from recreational anglers, whose perceptions of ancient fishes are evolving from trash to trophy fish. Partnerships were formed among researchers from several institutions for future study, new opportunities for research and management were identified, and significant positive energy was developed for future work. A special issue featuring submissions from the symposium is being organized. Read the abstracts here.
—Sarah King, University of Illinois; Solomon David, U.S. Geological Survey and John G. Shedd Aquarium; and Jeffrey A. Stein, University of Illinois