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The Alligator Gar


The alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula, is a large long-lived fish that has existed since the Cretaceous period approximately 180 million years ago. Gars possess several characteristics that have been advantageous to their survival, including rapid juvenile growth, thick interlocking ganoid scales and they also have a physostomous swim bladder that allows them to breathe air and live in water with poor water quality. Interestingly, gars are the only freshwater fishes of North America that have been reported to have toxic eggs.

Two USFWS employees hold a fish as long as a person that looks very heavy

Alligator gar are enormous! Photo: USFWS.

Historically, the alligator gar was the top predator in aquatic habitats throughout the central U.S., ranging from Ohio southward through the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Unfortunately, the alligator gar has declined significantly in abundance and is now considered vulnerable to extirpation throughout much of its native range. Habitat alteration and overexploitation are the most important factors in the decline in alligator gar abundance. Due to concern for decreased population sizes, alligator gar have been identified by the American Fisheries Society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, many state fisheries programs, and the Gulf Coastal Plain Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative as a species of concern in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.


Alligator Gar Research Documents

Last updated: November 5, 2014