Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Are They Different?

Written by Megan Martin
Published: April 15, 2022
© Mikhail Blajenov/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:


Have you ever wondered what a longnose gar vs alligator gar comparison would look like? With these two species being so similar, it’s easy to think they’re identical. However, no matter the similarities, both the longnose gar and the alligator gar are two separate species. They’re even in two separate genera! 

To help you tell which gar is which, we’ve created this complete longnose gar vs alligator gar. Ready to learn just how different they are? Keep reading!

Comparing the Longnose Gar and the Alligator Gar

The longnose gar has a longer spout than the alligator gar.
Longnose GarAlligator Gar
TaxonomyLepisosteus osseusAtractosteus spatula
HabitatFreshwater lakes, swamps, brackish waters, and slow-moving rivers and streamsFreshwater rivers, swamps, and marshes
RangeSoutheastern and midwestern United StatesGulf of Mexico and surrounding river basins
Size2.5ft to 6.5ftAround 10 feet
WeightUp to 50 poundsUp to 350 pounds
TeethA single row of small, sharp teethTwo rows of sharp teeth
DietSmall fish, crustaceans, and insectsFish, crabs, waterfowl, small mammals, and turtles

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: 5 Key Differences

The key differences between a longnose gar and an alligator gar are size, snout, teeth, diet, and taxonomy. The longnose gar is not only a different species from the alligator gar, but it is also in a different genus – although both are still in the gar family. Found in a wider range of habitats across the midwest and the eastern United States, the longnose gar is half the size of the alligator gar in both size and weight. In fact, in terms of size, the longnose gar can be as much as a third of the alligator gar’s length.

74,781 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

However, this is just a glimpse at what sets the longnose gar apart from the alligator gar. Keep reading as we dive into a deeper look at the top five key differences between the longnose gar vs alligator gar!

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Teeth

Close-up of longnose gar with bright blue eyes and long nose
Longnose gar has a row of small, sharp teeth.


The longnose gar has a single row of small, sharp teeth positioned close together. While the alligator gar has teeth of a similar shape and size, it has twice the amount thanks to having two rows of teeth. The inner row of teeth is much longer than the outer row, and it has sharp fangs to help hold its prey.

Just like the name “longnose” indicates the longnose gar’s long snout, there’s some truth to the alligator gar’s name as well – and it happens to be one of the key differences that set these two gar species apart. The longnose gar has a long snout in relation to body size than the alligator gar.

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Diet

With a difference in teeth, it comes as no surprise that the alligator gar and the longnose gar have a pretty different diet too.

Both the longnose gar and the alligator gar eat small fish and crustaceans like crabs. However, the small longnose gar prefers to dine on insects, while the alligator gar has much larger prey on the menu.

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Size

An Alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula, while swimming in a huge aquarium
Alligator gars are some of the largest types of gar.

©Bill Roque/Shutterstock.com

The longnose gar can grow to be between 2.5 to 6.5 feet long. That’s around the same as a 7-year-old human child or two mini fridges!

However, reaching lengths up to 10 feet long (that’s longer than the average human!), the alligator gar is nearly three times the size of a longnose gar. The alligator gar also outweighs the longnose gar, with their 300-pound average maximum weight being more than that of the longnose.

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Location

Both the longnose gar and the alligator gar are American freshwater fish. However, while there may be some overlap in their habitats, their locations differ greatly.

The longnose gar can be found in a large, diverse area. From swamps to rivers, you’re much more likely to stumble across a longnose gar when fishing along the east coast and in the midwest of the United States. 

The alligator gar, however, is only found in the freshwaters around the Gulf of Mexico. This includes the streams or rivers in the nearby area.

Longnose Gar Vs Alligator Gar: Taxonomy

Portrait of longnose gar swimming among seaweed.
Longnose gars belong to the genus Lepisosteus.

©Mikhail Blajenov/Shutterstock.com

Despite having similar names, the longnose gar and alligator gar aren’t just different species; they’re in entirely different genera! Both are in the same family of Lepisosteidae, which includes all gars, but the alligator gar is in the genus Atractosteus while the longnose gar is in the genus Lepisosteus.

The genus Atractosteus has three living species: the alligator gar, the tropical gar, and the Cuban gar. The genus Lepisosteus, on the other hand, includes four living species: the longnose gar, the spotted gar, the Florida gar, and the shortnose gar. 


Close up of Alligator Gar swimming
Alligator gars have a smaller habitat range.

©tristan tan/Shutterstock.com

With such similar names and appearances, and even a similar habitat, it can be easy to confuse the longnose gar for the alligator gar and vice versa. However, once you learn exactly what sets them apart, identifying them becomes much easier.

For instance, if you were to find one further west, it’s most likely a longnose gar. You can also check their teeth – if you’re brave enough to get close! Longnose gars only have a single row of sharp teeth, while the alligator gar has two.

Both the longnose gar and the alligator gar are important parts of their own habitats. They’re also only two examples of the diverse family that contains all gars. 

The Featured Image

Portrait of longnose gar swimming among seaweed.
© Mikhail Blajenov/Shutterstock.com

Share this post on:
About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.