alligator gar-atractosteus spatula

Alligator Gar

Alligator Gar (Atractosteus spatula)
Alligator gars are ray-finned euryhaline fish. Fossil records trace their existence back over a hundred million years ago! They are the largest fish in the gar family, and among the largest freshwater fish in all of North America. They are considered “primitive fish” or “living fossils,” and can breathe both above and below water. Their common name was derived from the American alligator, particularly due to their broad snout and long sharp teeth.


Throughout time, alligator gars have been pushed out of their historic ranges by culling, harvesting and habitat destruction. Populations are now concentrated in southern portions of the United States and Mexico. They are considered euryhaline fish because they can adapt to a variety of water salinities ranging from freshwater to brackish and estuaries. Alligator gars were long considered a “nuisance species” that had a negative impact on sport fisheries, therefore targeted for elimination. The last ten years has seen a greater emphasis on the alligator gar’s importance to their habitats, affording them protection through restricted licensing.

Size & Appearance

While certain reports suggest that alligator gars can grow up to 10 feet and weigh as much as 300 pounds, the largest alligator gar ever caught and weighed measured 8.5 feet in length and weighed in at 327 pounds. Their bodies are usually brown or olive fading to a lighter grey or yellow, and are torpedo shaped. Rather than having scales, alligator gars have armored bodies to protect against predation. Unlike other garfish, alligator gars have doubled rows of large sharp teeth in their upper jaw for impaling and holding prey.


Alligator gars are stalking, ambush predators that are primarily piscivores. They also ambush and eat waterfowl and small mammals that may be floating on the water’s surface. Their hunting patterns categorize them as opportunistic, and sometimes even scavenging, eaters.

Fun Facts

  • Most females do not reach sexual maturity until after ten years of life while males do so in less than half that time.
  • Native Americans used alligator gars’ scales for arrowheads, breastplates, and as shielding to cover plows. Early settlers used their skin to make various items including purses. People in Arkansas used their oil as buffalo gnat repellant.
  • Fossil records trace the alligator gar’s existence back to the Early Cretaceous period – that’s over a hundred million years ago!
Join our eMailing List!

Sign-up to receive Park News, Special Event Info, Exclusive Discount Offers and more...

Animal Encounters at Everglades Holiday Park ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS - Experience a 45-minute Everglades animal encounter where you can pet, feed, and play with 5 wild, uncaged animals. Learn about alligators, tortoises, skunks, racoons, snakes, pigs, and more from our expert animal handlers!
Everglades VIP Tours EVERGLADES VIP TOURS - Sit back and relax as Everglades Holiday Park drives you to and from our park for the ultimate VIP Everglades airboat tour! Your VIP tour will be accompanied by a live alligator presentation, and FREE baby alligator and airboat group photos!
Group Airboat Tours GROUP AIRBOAT TOURS - If you're considering visiting Everglades Holiday Park with a group of 15 or more friends, we're pleased to offer a group rate for enjoying the Everglades together.
Private Airboat Tours at Everglades Holiday Park PRIVATE AIRBOAT TOURS - Experience the magic of the Everglades on a private airboat tour! Perfect for small groups of 2 or more, Everglades Holiday Park can customize your tour for a perfect mix of excitement, discovery, and leisure.
Everglades Birthday Parties at Everglades Holiday Park BIRTHDAY PARTIES - Plan an unforgettable birthday celebration at Everglades Holiday Park! Perfect for kids of all ages, our park offers exciting airboat tours, live alligator shows, animal encounters, and more!
Summer Camps Field Trips at Everglades Holiday Park SUMMER CAMP FIELD TRIPS - Everglades Holiday Park offers the perfect combination of education and entertainment. We can accommodate summer camp groups up to 150 guests! Come enjoy a 60-minute guided airboat tour, a live alligator presentation, outdoor activities, and our full-service deli and café.
Everglades School Trips at Everglades Holiday Park EVERGLADES SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS - Educate your students about Everglades preservation and exotic animals at Everglades Holiday Park! Our park is the perfect spot for an exciting and informative South Florida school field trip!
Shore Excursions at Everglades Holiday Park SHORE EXCURSIONS - Everglades Holiday Park is home to the best Everglades shore excursion. Conveniently located near Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Palm Beach in Florida, you and your guests will create memories that will last a lifetime when you explore the majestic wonderland of the Everglades.