What Is an Alligator?

The term alligator comes from the Spanish word “el lagarto,” or translated as “the lizard.”

Alligators are huge reptiles and members of the order Crocodylia. These are often confused with crocodiles because they are closely related.

Alligators are cold-blooded or what we refer to as ectothermic. It means they do not have the ability to control their temperatures internally.

To easily distinguish an alligator from a crocodile, check out its snout because these are wide and rounded. Plus, alligator skin is black. When an alligator rests its jaws, you will notice that its upper teeth are visible.

On the other hand, crocodiles have narrow and pointed snouts. They also have gray-green skin. When their mouth is closed, both their upper and lower teeth are visible.

How Big Can Alligators Get?

Alligators can grow up to 3.4 meters long and weigh around 454 kilograms. According to experts, Chinese alligators are smaller. They could grow up to 1.5 meters and weigh 22.7 kilograms.

Where Do Alligators Live?

American alligators can be found in the southern United States. They live in eastern Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Florida. You can find them in rivers, swamps, lakes and ponds.

For Chinese alligators, they live in eastern China, specifically in a small area in the Yangtze River. However, they are now confined in ponds on agricultural lands, and their natural habitat is converted to rice paddies.

What Are the Usual Activities of Alligators?

Surprisingly, alligators are social creatures. You can often see them in groups that are called congregations. They will usually swim or bask under the sun.

On hot days, they will submerge themselves in the water to cool down. When it gets too cold, though, they spend more time in the water because it’s warmer than the outside air. However, if temperatures are freezing, they stick their noses above a frozen sheet of ice. It’s as if they are snorkeling.

They also use the water for hunting and their tails allow them to swim fast. American alligators can even swim 20 miles per hour and run on land as fast as 11 miles per hour. Their skin, which looks like a log, is helpful when stalking their prey.

Do Alligators Eat Everything?

Alligators are carnivores and they are not picky with their food. They could eat small mammals, birds, mollusks, fish and even other reptiles. At times, they will also eat fruits.

A young alligator might eat insects, worms, snails and fish. As they mature, they go for larger prey.  Take note that humans aren’t alligators’ natural prey. If in case you have a close encounter with one, just back away slowly as it is extremely rare for them to chase people.

How Do Alligators Breed?

The mating season for alligators is in June, and the males can fertilize multiple females in just one season. As for females, they are known to have just one mate.

Like most mothers, alligators are caring and overly protective. They even create nests from sticks, plants and mud where she would lay the eggs. Alligators can produce around 50 eggs at one time. Once the eggs are laid, the mother alligator will cover these with more sticks, plants and mud.

How To Determine the Sex of an Alligator’s Offspring?

Interestingly, you can determine the sex of the offspring depending on the temperature of their nest. Below is a quick guide you can refer to.

  • Below 82.4 F: Female
  • Above  91.4 F: Male
  • Around 87.8 F: Even number of males and females

By September, the eggs are ready to hatch and the mother alligator will remove the debris covering the nest. At times, they help break the babies’ shells using their mouths. Baby alligators are called hatchlings. After two years, they leave their mother’s protection. Talk about being independent!

Are Alligators Endangered?

The American alligators are listed as “least concern.” On the other hand, Chinese alligators are considered “critically endangered.” It means they are at high risk of becoming extinct.

Do They Always Attack Humans?

Many people are afraid of alligators. That’s not surprising because of their physical appearance. They think these creatures are always ready to attack. However, they only do so when they feel threatened.

Can Alligators Walk on Land?

Alligators have two known forms of motion on land, the “sprawl” and “high walk.” When an alligator sprawls, this is the forward movement where its belly makes contact with the ground. It is often a transition movement to the high walk.

The high walk means a forward motion where they are up on their four limbs. It means that the belly is not against the ground.

While some have observed that alligators can balance using their hind legs, this doesn’t mean they can walk in a position similar to humans.

How Do Alligators Attack Their Prey?

The main prey of alligators is small animals where they could eat them in a single bite. However, they can also eat larger prey where they grab and drown them first. If they cannot consume the food in one bite, they will allow it to rot or perform a “death roll.”

Death roll means spinning the prey wildly until bite-sized pieces are torn off.

How Strong Are the Alligator’s Jaws?

The muscles that are used to close the jaws of an alligator are strong. But these are not the same muscles they use for opening the jaws, which are considered weaker. Thus, it is possible for an adult human to shut the jaws using bare hands. This is the reason why you often see alligator jaws being shut using duct tape.

Is It Safe To Have a Swamp Tour in Florida?

Alligators are fascinating creatures and we want to educate as many people as we can. This is possible with an airboat tour and swamp tour.

At Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures, we always make sure that our tours are safe. We have the right equipment and knowledge that will make your journey enjoyable. Get to have a close encounter with alligators without worries! Head over to our website and schedule your tour today!

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