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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Overhead River Habitat (River Scout)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Mississippi River basin from southwest Ohio and southern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, as well in the Gulf Coastal Plain from Florida to Northern Mexico.
  • Prefers sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers, swamps, bayous and lakes in the south.
  • Occasionally enters brackish water along the Gulf of Mexico coast and may enter the Gulf itself.

Physical Characteristics

  • Short, broad snout with upper jaw shorter than the lower. Its head resembles that of an alligator, hence its name. 
  • Body covered with non-overlapping, armor-like scales consisting of bony plates. 
  • Coloration is dark olive-brown on back, white to yellow below, and sometimes spotted on the sides.
  • Juvenile has a light stripe along its back from tip of the snout to the upper base of the caudal (tail) fin.
  • Common length of close to 6.6 feet (2 m), with a maximum length of 10 feet (3 m) and a maximum weight of more than 100 lbs. (45 kg).
  • Unlike most gars, it possesses two rows of teeth on upper jaw.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of fishes, crustaceans, birds, and small mammals as well as reptiles. Turtles and blue crabs are common prey.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Spawning occurs late spring in April, May and June.
  • Spawns by congregating in large numbers with a female and one or more males on either side to fertilize the eggs.
  • Females typically carry approximately 138,000 eggs.
  • The eggs are released and fertilized by the male outside of the body.
  • The eggs sink to the bottom of the river after being fertilized and stick to the substrate due to an adhesive outer covering.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Alligator gar has a lung-like air bladder that is connected to its throat. It can gulp air which enables it to survive in oxygen-poor water.
  • Known as the “Giant of the Gars” because of its size.
  • Common market fish in Louisiana.
  • Eggs are bright red and poisonous if eaten.

McClane’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America.  McClane, A.J., 
pg. 179
Peterson’s Field Guides – Freshwater Fishes. Page, L.M. and Brooks, M., pgs. 29-30
Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. Hoese, H.D. and Moore, R.H., pg. 144