Alligators are sometimes called living fossils. They are cold-blooded reptiles that have lived on earth for over 70 million years. They are the official reptile of Florida, Mississippi, and Louisianna. You can find them lurking in swamps, rivers, lakes, and marshes all across the southeastern part of the U.S. To find out more, check out facts about alligators for kids.
What is an alligator?
Alligators are large reptiles. There are two species of alligators: the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. Alligators are related to crocodiles but are not the same species.
Alligators are ancient
Dinosaurs and alligators once walked the earth at the same time! Alligators have changed very little since the Mesozoic Period. They aren’t dinosaurs but have a common ancestor. Alligators may have outlived the dinosaurs because they didn’t depend heavily on plants for survival.
What do alligators look like?
American Alligators can be up to 12 ft long and weigh 1,000 pounds. Male American alligators are slightly larger than female alligators. Chinese alligators are much smaller. They are up to 5ft long and weigh up to 85 pounds. Chinese male alligators are larger than female alligators.
Alligators have a long snout with two nostrils at the end. They have muscular, long bodies that sit close to the ground and four webbed feet. Their bodies are covered in dark greenish-brown scales called scutes.
Alligators have a white-yellow belly.
An alligator’s eyes are large and located on the top side of its head. The position of their eyes allows the alligator’s body to stay underwater while searching for prey. The location of the alligator’s eyes forms a blind spot in the middle of its face.
Alligators have two sets of eyelids, and their pupils are shaped like a cat. Like cats, alligators have a structure in the back of their eye that reflects the light causing the alligator’s eyes to glow. Alligator eyes glow the color red, which helps to locate them at night. Alligators have excellent night vision.
An alligator has a narrow jaw with two rows of teeth. One is in the upper jaw and one in the lower jaw. An adult alligator has 75-85 teeth. They don’t chew their food, and their teeth aren’t as sharp as you think. A shark has stronger teeth. When teeth wear down or fall out, a new one grows in its place. It is believed that an alligator has over 2,000 teeth in a lifetime.
Where do alligators live?
Alligators live in freshwater wetlands. They live in rapid rivers, creeks, lakes, streams, marshes, and swamps. The American alligator lives in the southeastern United States from North Carolina through Texas. The Chinese Alligator lives in the Yangtze River.
Alligators do not hibernate but become less active during the winter. They dig gator holes which are tunnels. They will sleep in gator holes during colder weather or excessive heat. Gator holes are big, up to 64 feet wide.
Alligators like to lay out in the sun on land or on rocks in the water. Alligators are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature changes with the environment. The sun keeps their body temperature warm. Humans are warm-blooded, meaning our bodies create heat even in cold weather.
They can’t survive in saltwater
Unlike crocodiles, the alligator does not remove salt from its water, which prevents them from swimming in saltwater habitats such as mangrove swamps. If you’ve spotted crocodilians in saltwater, you know that they’re not alligators.
What do alligators eat?
Alligators are primarily carnivores meaning they eat meat they will also eat fruit. An alligator’s food will change as it grows. Smaller alligators eat insects spiders, snails, crustaceans, Florida gar, or other small fish. As alligators grow larger they eat larger prey including larger fish, raccoons, birds, turtles, lizards, other small mammals, and even other alligators.
Cold-blooded animals like alligators and other reptiles have a slow metabolism and don’t need to eat often. Alligators eat about once a week but can go 1-2 months without eating. In extreme situations where there is no food, alligators have lived 2-3 years without starving.
Female Alligators are good moms!
Female alligators lay 38-42 eggs in June and early July. To prepare for the eggs they build nests above ground. The nests are made out of plants. Nests are camouflaged so that they stand out from predators.
The alligator’s nests act like an incubator for the eggs. An incubator regulates temperature. The gender of an alligator is determined by temperature. If the temperatures at a newborn alligator nest are between 86-93 degrees then both male and female alligators will be hatched. When the temperature is above 93 degrees the babies will all be male. If the temperature is below 86 then the babies will all be female. hot and he is male the babies are cold.
a female alligator’s eggs will hatch in 2 months. Babies are called hatchlings. Mother alligators will care for her babies for two years.
Alligators seem to be good moms, however, sometimes they eat their babies!
What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
- Crocodiles are larger than alligators.
- Crocodiles are darker in color than alligators. Alligators have a white-yellow underbelly. Crocodiles do not.
- alligators have a round or U-shaped snout. Crocodiles have a pointer V shape snout
- Both alligators and crocodiles prefer freshwater however crocodiles can live in saltwater. Neither crocodiles nor alligators live in the ocean. Alligators are not found in saltwater, crocodiles can live in saltwater.
- Crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators and have a stronger bite.
Facts about alligators for kids
- A female alligator is called a cow, males are called bulls, and babies are called hatchlings.
- Alligators like to lay out in the sun on land or on rocks in the water. Alligators are cold-blooded meaning their body temperature changes with the environment. The sun keeps their body temperature warm. Humans are warm-blooded meaning our bodies create heat even in cold weather.
- Alligators are fast and can run up to 35 miles per hr on land and can swim 20 miles per hour.
- Using their tails, they can jump out of the water up to 5ft!
- If given an incline, alligators can climb trees!
- Alligators are the loudest reptiles in the world!
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