Statements about morphological variation in extinct taxa often suffer from insufficient sampling that can be remedied by taking advantage of larger sample sizes provided by related, extant taxa. This analysis quantitatively and qualitatively examines histological and morphological variation of osteoderms from extant and extinct alligatoroid specimens. Statistically significant differences were correlated with changes in osteoderm size and shape. These differences are independent of position on the body, taxonomy, or evolution. Histological variation in alligatoroid osteoderms is due to morphological constraints on the elements themselves, and not taxonomic differences. This has implications for the recognition of histological characters in the osteoderms of extinct archosaur groups that lack extant representatives. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.