Species Finder Species Posted Mar 14, 2000 Alligator Gar Species Identification There are several species of gar, most of which found in freshwater but also occasionally in marine environments. This section will look at four different species of gar in greater detail: alligator, longnose, shortnose, and spotted. Appearance Alligator Gar Sketch. Duane Raver/USFWS Alligator: Alligator gar are a very large fish with a very short and broad snout compared to other gars. The mouth is filled with sharp needle like teeth and they have very hard diamond shaped scales. This species of gar has many small spots on the body and a few larger spots on the tale, dorsal and anal fins. Longnose: Longnose gar have a very long and narrow snout containing many needle like teeth. Their body is long and cylindrical, covered with diamond-shaped, hard non-overlapping scales. They are olive or brownish colored on their back with a white belly. When they are caught from clear waters they often have numerous dark spots. Shortnose: Shortnose gar typically only have spots on the rear portion of their body and fins. The mouth is filled with sharp needle like teeth and they have very hard diamond shaped scales. Shortnose gar have a shorter and broader snout and fewer spots than either longnose or spotted gar. Unlike the alligator gar, they also lack an upper jaw. Spotted: Spotted gar have many spots on their entire body and fins often making them look darker colored than other gar species. Spotted gar closely resemble the Florida gar, but with a shorter snout. Maximum Size Shortnose Gar Sketch. Duane Raver/USFWS Alligator: One of the largest freshwater fish in North America, reaching up to 10 feet (3 m) and 300 pounds (136 kg). Longnose: Over 6 feet (2 m) and 50 pounds (22 kg). Shortnose: 30 inches (76 cm) and 5 pounds (2.2 kg). Spotted: 45 inches (114 cm) and 6 pounds (2.7 kg). Geographic Range Spotted Gar USFWS Alligator: Primarily southeastern and central United States and as far south as Mexico, and occasionally found as far north as Ohio and Illinois. Longnose: Found mainly in Great Lakes, southern United States, Mississippi river system, and northern Mexico. Shortnose: Native to Mississippi River, but have been found along the Gulf Coast, as for north and west as Montana and as east as Ohio River. Spotted: In pockets of river systems, primarily in central and especially southern United States. Found rarely in Lake Ontario, Eerie, and Huron. Habitat Alligator: Alligator gar are found in very large rivers and associated back waters and marshes. Longnose: They are found in medium to large rivers and prefer areas of little or no flow with clear water. They are also found in the harbors, bays, and other backwaters. Shortnose: Shortnose gar are found in large rivers and associated overflow ponds and backwaters. They are more tolerant of turbid (murky) waters than most gar species but young are rather dependent on stagnant backwaters making them sensitive to destruction of these habitats. Spotted: potted gar are found in clear waters with profuse amounts of aquatic vegetation in natural lakes, backwaters of larger rivers, and large permanent swamps or marshes. Food Alligator: Feed primarily on other fish such as gizzard shad or suckers but will take a wide variety of prey items including small mammals and ducks. Longnose: Small fish, primarily minnows or gizzard shad. Shortnose: Small fish, primarily minnows or gizzard shad. Will also eat crayfish and other large invertebrates. Spotted: Small fish, primarily minnows or gizzard shad. Spawning Alligator: Typically spawn between April-June, but timing and spawning environment varies greatly by region. Longnose: Spawning takes place in the late May or early June often in shallow riffles. The longnose gar migrates into smaller streams to spawn. One female produces about 30,000 eggs in a year which hatch about a week after being laid. Shortnose: Shortnose gar spawn in quiet backwaters where they scatter their rather large yellow adhesive eggs over vegetation or other submerged objects. Spotted: Spotted gar spawn over vegetation or flooded timber in spring. Their rather large adhesive eggs hatch in about a week. Information credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.