High-profile gig for gar star Solomon David

Written By BY DALE BOWMAN For Sun-Times Media Posted: 07/27/2014, 02:30am
Array Gar can be seen in three different places at the Shedd Aquarium.  | Dale Bowman

I need to get out more.

That much is obvious.

On Wednesday evening, my wife and I went to see the second Science Pub of the summer during ‘‘Jazzin’ at the Shedd.’’ Solomon David was presenting ‘‘Dinosaur Fishes in the Modern Era.’’

I expected a couple hundred of the fishy-nerd sort I know well to be wandering around looking at the fish exhibits and sipping white wine from plastic cups.

Au contraire, faithful readers.

Try 2,000 to 3,000 people seriously mingling, drinking and eating around the Shedd Aquarium. OK, my estimate was close on the number, about 100, who left the bacchanalian revelry in the hallways and took time to hear David’s presentation in the 4-D Experience.

It was a good one on ancient fishes, focused on gar and bowfin.

David is a rising star in Chicago outdoors. He’s got that something stars are made of, enthusiasm mixed with love of his topics and encyclopedic knowledge.

He comes by it naturally. As a kid, he was fascinated with dinosaurs, like many kids. Then he found an alligator gar in an old Ranger Rick magazine (he has been trying to find that issue for years; help him out if you have it).

David grew up but kept his interests. He had longnose gar in his masters work and spotted gar in his dissertation. His dad found a drawing of a spotted gar that David did as a 12-year-old, which ended up as part of his dissertation.

A few things stuck with me from his presentation. There’s roughly 29,000 fish species in the world, split 60/40 salt water to fresh. There are 200 species in the Great Lakes drainage.

He made a distinction when talking about ancient fish, such as gar, sturgeon and bowfin. The fish today is a modern representation of an ancient fish. It has survived because it evolved as a species. I assumed the gar or sturgeon I catch are the same as the ones swimming around with the dinosaurs. The answer is yes and no.

He mentioned how gar have survived millions of years.

‘‘Hopefully, they can do that on our watch,’’ he said.

I worry about that.

Even in the 21st century, bad things happen to the snouted toothy gar. On the way to a gar conference down south, David and friends stopped at Horseshoe Lake in southern Illinois and discovered dead gar with broken backs strewn here and there. ‘‘Garpocalypse’’ is what he called it.

He mentioned how terrestrial conservation is well supported, but it is tougher for aquatic conservation. He’s absolutely right — I suspect because it’s easier to see conservation on land than water.

There are three spots to find gar at the Shedd: in the Great Lakes and paddlefish exhibits and the Islands & Lakes gallery, which has tropical gars in with orange humphead Midas cichlids. Alligator gar are behind the scenes.

Before we left, my wife wanted to make sure to see the Pritzker Caribbean Reef. In terms of self-survival, I didn’t know if I was to decipher implied meanings.

It was time.

Jazzin’ at the Shedd — jazz, cocktails, Lake Michigan, fireworks — runs 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 3. For info, go to sheddaquarium.org/Jazzin. The final Science Pub this year is Aug.  20, with Bill Van Bonn discussing microbiomes.

Email: straycasts@sbcglobal.net

Twitter: @BowmanOutside

Browse More 'Uncategorized'