Latin name

Lepisosteus spatula

Other names

Garpike; French: garpique alligator; Spanish: gaspar baba.


The body of the alligator gar is long and cylindrical, covered with heavy ganoid (rhomboid) scales. The snout is short and broad, like an alligator, with two rows of teeth on either side of the upper jaw (other gar have only one). It has a single dorsal fin, which is well back on the body, above the anal fin and just before the tail. The tail is rounded and the pectoral, ventral and anal fins are evenly distributed over the lower half of the body. The colouration is olive or greenish brown on the upper side and lighter on the underside. The sides are mottled with large black spots. This and other gar are often mistaken for swimming loggerheads. The alligator gar can be distinguished from all other animals by the two rows of teeth in the upper jaw, the wider snout and the larger size in adulthood. The alligator gar most closely resembles members of the pike family in body shape and fin arrangement, although its tail is bifurcated rather than rounded.


The range of the alligator gar extends from the Mississippi River basin in southwestern Ohio and southern Illinois south to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Enconfina River in western Florida west to Veracruz, Mexico. It has been reported caught in Lake Nicaragua, but this catch could be confused with a large relative of L. tristoechius caught in Cuban, Central American and Mexican waters, a fish that rivals the size of the alligator gar.


Large lakes, bays, backwaters, canals and coastal delta waters along large southern rivers are the preferred habitat of the alligator gar, although this fish is rarely found in brackish or marine waters. It prefers shallow, weedy environments as well as the slack pools and backwaters of large rivers and can survive in hot and stagnant water. Alligator gar are often seen floating on the surface. Occasionally they will come up to the surface to breathe and draw air into their swim bladders.


The alligator gar is a giant of the gar family. It still reaches weights of over 100 pounds, although such fish are rare. Larger fish are sometimes caught in commercial fishing nets. The maximum size of an alligator gar has not been determined, although it is believed to exceed 300 pounds and can grow to over 10 feet in length. The rod-and-reel record holder is a 279-pound fish caught in the Rio Grande River in Texas in 1951. However, there are reports of larger fish. A 190-pound fish caught in a net in Arkansas in 1997 was 7 feet 11 inches long.

Life history and Behavior

Spawning takes place in spring and early summer in shallow bays and marshes. The female lays dark green eggs which adhere to vegetation and rocks until they hatch after 6-8 days. The female can produce up to 77,000 eggs at a time. The hatchlings are solitary and float like sticks on the surface.

Food and feeding habits

Although the alligator gar is notorious for eating everything from dead animals to ducks and popular game fish, research has shown that the majority of its diet consists of gizzard shad, threadfin shad, golden shiners and coarse fish.


No information

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Lepisosteiformes
Family Lepisosteidae
Genus Atractosteus
Species A. spatula
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Pelagic
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg 137
Maximum length, cm 150
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people No information
Way of eating Predator

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Gar, Alligator

Tags: Gar, Alligator