American Alligator

Children's Zoo

Location

In the Zoo
Size
Male
Female
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
Class:
Reptilia
Order:
Crocodilla
Family:
Alligatoridae
Genus:
Alligator

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet:
Carnivorous
Activity Time Frame:
Cathemeral
Interactivity:
Social
Sexual Dimorphism:
No
Gestation:
65 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
40 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
50-60 years

Conservation

Status:
Threats:

Characteristics

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

Physical Characteristics

To aid in camouflage, they exhibit an overall backdrop of brown with spots, speckles or swirls of varying color. A very spiky tail used to swipe at predators, paired with on open mouth hissing, are there first line of defense. As a result of high concentrations of salt bearing plants, this species has glands in its nostrils used for eliminating extra salt without eliminating water. Can you tell in the picture below which is the Common Chuckwalla and which is the Mali Spiny Lizard (hint: look at the tails)?

Ecology

Habitat

Fresh Water swamps and waterways only.

Distribution

Diet

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

Ecological Web

Mostly herbivorous, uromastyx do consume invertebrates in juvenile stages of life. This species is prey to may birds, snakes, wolves and monitor lizards thus being a very important food source in a sparse dessert habitat. Although solitary in the wild our Mali Uromastyx (right) lives with her best friend, a common chuckwalla (left), in our zoo's education department. See them sleeping together pictured below. They make a great ambassador team. Despite originating from opposite sides of the world both Mali Uromastyx and chuckwallas share an herbivorous diet, and a dry, rocky desert habitat type.

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.

Behavior

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

Offspring

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.

Conservation

Status

Historical

Current Threats

Our Role

No items found.

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

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

References

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/american-alligator