Federally protected. American alligator populations were in decline
until the 1980 because of poaching for their hides and habitat
Populations have now recovered.
Alligator spotting techniques: Watch for eyes, head or snout protruding from water surface. Also, use a flashlight at night to shine on the water in order to locate an alligator by its glowing red-orange eyes.
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in English:
Alligator, American Alligator, Alligator, Gator, American Alligator, Florida Alligator, Mississippi Alligator, Louisiana Alligator., Florida Alligator, Gator, Louisiana Alligator, Mississippi Alligator
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Russian:
Species Alligator mississippiensis
is blackish brown. Juveniles
on the back and some tail markings.
Alligators have valves in their ears and nostrils to keep water out. Because their mouths lack lips and thus do not shut completely, two flaps cover the gullet and windpipe during dives. Its rear legs are longer than its front legs and each foot has four toes ending in claws .
In the United States, alligators grow larger than crocodiles.
6-19 feet long, nose to tail. Adults
from 6-12 feet
, but the maximum is more than 19 feet.
Weight normally to 500 pounds . A full grown male may weigh up to 1200 pounds, while the female is slightly smaller.
Usually seen in large streams , canals, ponds , lakes , marshes, swamps , and tidal estuaries.
Typically found in a lake at a mean distance from sea level of 541 meters (1,776 feet).
Alligators have a wide, varied diet
but tend to mainly feed
, small mammals, crayfish, birds, mammals, and frogs
The alligators' food changes with age. The young feed on insects and on freshwater shrimp. As they grow older they eat frogs, snakes and fish. Mature adults live mainly on fish but will catch muskrats and small mammals that go down to the water's edge to drink. They also take a certain amount of waterfowl. Very large alligators may occasionally pull large mammals such as deer or cows down into the water and drown them.
from mid-May to late September. Later in the summer
around 30 eggs
in a large mound of vegetation usually
near the water around trees
. Decay of organic
in this "nest"
helps warm the eggs and protects them from predators
. Females guard
and care for the young up to three years after hatching
and sometimes even longer
In preparation for egg laying, the female searches for a place at the edge of a pond or marsh where there is moist debris--leaf mold, twigs and branches and even growing shrubbery. This she scrapes into a high mound and then digs a cavity in the top of the heap in which she deposits about 29-68 eggs. Unlike most other reptiles , she guards them until they hatch about nine weeks later. Incubation is 2-3 months.
When ready to hatch, baby alligators make faint squeaking sounds signaling their mother to help them tear open the mound. Baby alligators are 8 inches long when first hatched and grow 1 foot a year, reaching maturity at 6-7 years of age. It is uncertain how long alligators live; in isolated protected habitats they may live 50 years or more.
Young alligators are an easy prey to carnivorous fish, birds and mammals. At all stages of growth they are attached and eaten by large alligators.
Alligators are diurnal
. They live in large holes
, which provide protection from harsh
in the spring
and summer outside of their dens.
Somewhat clumsy out of water, the alligator is superbly equipped to live in it. They are strong swimmers and experts at drifting along on the surface, submerged except for their bulging eyes and nostrils. Their long flat jaws not even making a ripple in the water as they stalk turtles, swimming birds and fishes .Adult alligators have dens to which they regularly retire. These dens are holes in riverbanks, and it is in them that the cooler months are weathered. Except at breeding time, they are likely to lead a solitary existence.
- Whittaker & Margulis, 1978
- Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Hay, 1930 (Walker, 1968)
- Gmelin, 1789
- Series: ref="http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/title/5803 ()
- Suborder: Eusuchia ()
- Order: Crocodylia () - Gmelin, 1789
- Infraclass: Archosauromorpha ()
- Subclass: Crocodylomorpha () - Hay, 1930 (Walker, 1968)
- Class: Eusuchia ()
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - Auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Alligator lucius Duméril and Bibron 1836: 75 • Alligator lucius — Clarke 1888 • Alligator lucius — DumÉril & Bibron 1836: 75 • Alligator mississippiensis — Conant & Collins 1991: 39 • Alligator mississippiensis — Holbrook 1842: 53 • Crocodilus cuvieri Leach 1815: 117 • Crocodilus lucius Cuvier 1807: 28 • Crocodilus mississipiensis Daudin 1802
Status: Accepted Name
Comment: Holotype: MNHN, according to Guibé (personal reply in Hemming 1956) Holbrook (1842) emended Daudin's `mississipiensis' to the present spelling, and that emendation was declared valid by the Intl. Comm. Zool. Nomen., see Hemming 1958, Opin. Declar. Rendered Intl. Comm. Zool. Nomen. 1F(F.8):87-126 (after King & Burke 1989). One of the many reptile species which have temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD, see Valenzuela & Lance 2004 for details).
An alligator is much like a crocodile in appearance, but has a broader, more rounded snout. Also the fourth tooth from the front of the lower jaw lies inside the closed mouth rather than outside as it does in the crocodile.
Members of the genus Alligator
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 3 species and subspecies in this genus:
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 27, 2008:
- Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics
- Marine Science Institute, UCSB: Paleobiology Database
- Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University: MCZ Herpetology Collection - Reptile Database
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology: Terrestrial vertebrate specimens
- Sternberg Museum of Natural History: Herp Collection
- University of Alberta: University of Alberta Herpetology Collection
- Yale University Peabody Museum: Peabody Herp Collection DiGIR provider Service
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 2535958
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Rep-214
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 13536499
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 551771
- IUCN ID: 189802
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ARABA01010
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Identifier: C000
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 13149
- Standard Deviation = 1,737.390 based on 10 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Curator for this page: Marco de Andrade. Date last reviewed: 12/30/1899