American Alligator

Children's Zoo


In the Zoo
11-12 feet
9 feet
450-550 pounds
160 pounds
10-12 years
10-12 years

Geographic Range

North Carolina to Florida Keys and west to central Texas.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Alligator mississippiensis

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
65 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
40 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
50-60 years




American alligators are the largest reptile in North America. Broadly rounded snout distinguishes it from crocodiles. The fourth tooth on each side of its lower jaw is hidden when mouth is closed. Young are black with yellowish cross-bars. Mature alligators are coal black when wet, dark gray when dry.

Species Specifics

The Three-Toed Box Turtle has a tan or olive carapace with darker seams and some vague markings. They also have orange, red and yellow spots on their head and forelimbs.The defining characteristic of this turtle is its toes. It has three toes on its back feet, thus why its known as the Three Toed Box Turtle. Hybrid Three Toed Box Turtles who have been interbred with Common Box Turtles sometimes have four toes instead of three. Sexual Dimorphism: males are larger. Males are slightly larger on average, the posterior lobe of their plastron is concave, and the claws on their hind legs are short, thick and curved. Males also have thicker and longer tails. Females' rear claws are longer, straighter and more slender, and the posterior lobe of their plastron is flat or slightly convex. There are four subspecies of Terrapene carolina in the United States. Terrapene carolina bauri (Florida Box Turtle) lives on the peninsula of Florida. Terrapene c. major (Gulf Coast Box Turtle) ranges from the panhandle of Florida westward along the Gulf cost to eastern Texas. Terrapene c. triunguis (Three-toed Box Turtle) lives in the Mississippi River Valley from northern Missouri southward across southeastern Kansas and eastern Oklahoma into southcentral Texas; and southeastward across western Tennessee and Georgia to the coastal lowlands.

Physical Characteristics

Able to eat mushrooms containing poisonous compounds which are not safe for humans or other animals, perhaps acting as a defense against predation.



Fresh Water swamps and waterways only.


Habitats: Found mostly in the Eastern United States, Box Turtles occur as far north as Michigan and Maine, South to Florida, and as far West as Texas and Kansas. Found rarely above 1,000 feet in elevation, preferring low land habitats where water collects. Commonly associated with deciduous forests having high leaf litter and moisture these turtles are often located near rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other bodies of fresh water, however, they are not good swimmers.


Carnivorous; Fish, snakes, frogs, turtles, birds, and mammals.

Ecological Web

Ecological Role: Apart from playing a dynamic role in the food web of their ecosystem via population control of prey species and as a food item for predators, Box Turtles serve as a mechanism for seed dispersal. Many species of aquatic fresh water plants as well as Native Geranium, Black Cherry and Native Grape species are aided in their germination and dispersal process when seeds are passed through the digestive system of Eastern Box Turtles. Predators: badgers, weasels, raccoons, skunks and snakes commonly prey upon adult Box Turtles, while younger turtles are far more susceptible to predation by birds, lizards, and even domestic pigs, cats, and dogs.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Alligators are active durring the day and at night, this is considered cathemeral. Durring the day alligators thermoregulate and bask in the sun. Alligators hunt and feed primarily at night.


The gecko will lick its eye to clean it from dust and other particles.

Social Behavior

Young alligators stay near their hatchling site and form a tight social group. This behavior aids in survival and protection from predators. As adults, alligators do have loose social contact.

Reproductive Behavior

Maturity is reached at 7 years, however, fewer than 10% of hatchlings will survive. Beginning at 7 to 8 years of age, box turtles will begin to sexually mature. Mating begins in the spring as soon as animals emerge from winter hibernation. Males extend their limbs and neck as long as possible in a display to potential mates. During copulation, the male wedges his feet into the females shell and remains attached to the female for several hours and may be dragged along behind her as she moves about.


Between 30-50 eggs are laid in a ground litter nest for their incubation period. The eggs are then covered so that the temperature can rise. Warmer temperatures produce males, cooler temperatures produce females.



Three-Toed Box Turtles are not considered endangered at the national level in the United States, Canada or Mexico, although several U.S. states, including Michigan, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, list T. carolina as a species of special concern. It is considered endangered in Maine. IUCN: VulnerableCITES: Appendix II


Due to a widespread, consistent and persistent decline of the species, the ICUN considers the Box Turtle to be a Vulnerable Species. The decline is associated with anthropogenic causes, or manmade causes centering on urbanization. Agricultural use of pesticides within a shared water shed has negatively impacted young turtle survivability due to malformed eggs. Introduction of synanthopic predator species, (species who live near and benefit mutually from human settlement and urban habitats) such as ravens, coyotes and raccoons, are increasing in numbers as humans continue to urbanize.

Current Threats

Introduced Non-Native, Domestic, and Invasive Species

Our Role

No items found.

How You Can Help

Please be aware of the pets you choose to buy. Never get a pet that has been taken from the wild and never return a pet to the wild. Be aware of pesticide applications so as to not poison native animals that benefit your ecosystem. Finally, be conscious of your trash and waste so as to not attract unwanted animals such as ravens.

Fascinating Facts

As an alligator's teeth are worn down, they are replaced. An alligator can go through 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.

The Iriquois and other Native Americans used them for food, medical, ceremonial, burial and hunting purposes.

Of all the Gerrhosaururidae lizards (Plated lizards) they are the most armored.