"Gar"ding Yourself with Scales

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    Jeanette Pirlo

    Through time, fishes have evolved various adaptations that have helped them survive.  Thanks to the fossil record, we have been able to keep track of some of these adaptations and track how much a species has changed.

    An adaptation that persists through the fossil record is that of gar scales.  These durable ganoid scales protect the body of the gar.  Due to their durability, the scales preserve very well and can be found in aquatic sediments, like at Montbrook.  But why do they preserve so well you ask?  Ganoid scales are composed of a layer of dentine, like what you would find beneath the enamel of teeth.

    Gar scales have been used by ancient people for multiple purposes.  Individual scales have been used as arrowheads, while the entire skin of the gar, scales and all, have been used as breast plates by some cultures.

    The scales found by @acurrier, @tmorgan, @matthew-croxton, @andrea-brook, @denise-porcello, @maggie-paxson, @catherine-mueller and B. Stubbs are beautiful and show the great diversity between each individual scale.  I especially like the two found by Aaron.  The detail almost looks like the bones you would find in a flipper.  The unique metallic sheen of the scales are their natural color.

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    Aaron Currier

    Hi @jeanette-pirlo. I found gar scales in Montana in dinosaur country too… Cretaceous age stuff. It’s cool when you recognize fossils across localities and time. Are gars potentially a living fossil? Their range and longevity is huge. Those two from Florida are really nice, I agree.

    Jeanette Pirlo

    Hi @acurrier, many would argue that gars are living fossils.  There was actually a book published on living fossils, with a chapter dedicated to Lepisosteida, which is the family to which gars belong to.  I’ve included the link below:  http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4613-8271-3_17

    I would be fantastic if you could upload pictures of the gar scales you found in Montana! I’d love to compare the two localities!

    Tynessa Morgan

    How can we find the cards for specimens that we found? @jeanette-pirlo

    Jeanette Pirlo

    @tmorgan most of the specimens have not yet been uploaded to the online collections’ website.  We collect so much each week that it’s difficult to keep up! I’ve included the link to the FLMNH Vert Paleo online collections database.  You can look up any of our specimens there, if they have been uploaded.  Let me know if I can help you with it!




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