American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

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  • American Alligator |  Photo: R. Cammauf, NPS
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Basic Information

Other names

Gator

Order

Crocodilia

Family

Alligatoridae

Size

American Alligators are massive repitles that can grow from 9 to 19 feet in length.

Lifespan

up to 50 years

Weight

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) facts, habitat, diet, range, alligator pictures and more to help you learn to identify the large reptile.

Diet

American Alligators are carnivores that eat other reptiles, mammals, fish and crustaceans.

Breeding

American Alligators generally breed in late spring and lay eggs in early summer. Alligators are polygynous, which means males mate with multiple female. During breeding season males will defend their territory against other males, often head-ramming and fighting with open jaws. During courtship males are sometime expose their vulnerable necks to females as an act of good faith. Both males and females reach sexual maturity when they are 10 to 12 years old.

Range

Coastal South Eastern U.S.

Number of Offspring

35-65 Eggs

Danger

Danger: People have been killed by Alligator Attacks! Also always keep pets on leash when hiking in gator country.

What does the American Alligator look like?

American Alligators have olive brown to black “armored” upper bodies with a cream white undercarriage. Juveniles have bright yellow stripes on their tails. Their eyes are silverish. They exhibit sexual dimorphism; with males being larger. They have short legs, five toes in the front, and four in the back and have a long snout with large nostrils at the end, which allows for breathing when the alligator is essentially fully submerged in water. Their tails are long and muscular allowing for swimming with ease.

American Alligator Habitat

Swamp/Marsh

American Alligator Facts

Alligators are for the most part carnivores, but will sometimes eat plant matter and just about anything else. They hunt by night, swallowing small prey such as rodent or fish whole and latching on to larger prey with their powerful jaws and dragging it underwater, drowning it. Allowing prey to drown helps Alligators conserve energy while hunting. Juvenile alligators will feed primarily on snails, insects, turtles and other reptiles. Once Alligators hatch in the later summer they are only about 7 inches long and extremely vulnerable to predation. Common predators include raptors, raccoons, weasels and more. Female will aggressively defender her young, while males play absolutely not role in parenting. If an alligator survives the first couple years it only predator is man, who hunt them for food and their skins. Many biologists consider Alligators to be a “keystone” species because of the important role they play in ecosystems. For example, controlling prey populations and their abandoned burrows are often used by other species as housing. They are dangerous to humans, while attacks are rare; people have been killed, so keep that in mind when hiking in Gator Country and please keep your pets on a leash.

Related Content

  1. How to avoid alligator attacks

See also