Photo by Brian Call
1. Alligators are not endangered.
Unlike their crocodile cousins, the American alligator is not endangered. They can be found in waterways from Florida to Texas and north all the way to North Carolina. They are actually an endangered species success story but remain protected due to similarity of appearance to crocodiles which are a federally protected species.
2. An alligator’s gender is determined by the temperature of the eggs.
At colder temperatures, alligator eggs will produce females. At intermediate temperatures, the odds of producing a male alligator are 3-to-1. In still hotter temperatures, most of the offspring will be female.
3. The best way to distinguish an alligator from a crocodile is by closely examining the teeth – but we don’t recommend it.
Crocodiles have a toothy grin, while alligators do not. The large, fourth tooth in the lower jaw of an alligator fits into a socket in the upper jaw and isn’t visible when the alligator’s mouth is closed. This doesn’t happen in crocodiles. Also, the colors of alligators and crocodiles differ, and alligators have a more rounded snout
4. Alligators have 74-80 teeth at any time, and can go through 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
As alligators’ teeth wear down, new ones grow in to replace them. Some alligators can go through 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
Photo by Brian Call
5. The males are bigger.
The average female adult alligator is 8.2 feet, but the average male is 11.2 feet. Some male alligators can reach a weight of nearly half a ton. The largest alligator ever measured in Florida was 17 feet five inches – but the largest alligator ever measured in the United States (in Louisiana) was 19 feet two inches.
Photo by Mac Stone
6. Alligators live about 50 years in the wild.
Once an alligator reaches 4 feet long, he or she is mostly safe from predators except man – and, occasionally, other alligators.
7. Baby alligators tell mom they’re ready to be born –while they’re still in the egg!
After breeding (usually in early May), the female alligator builds a nest of vegetation that can measure from 7 to 10 feet in diameter and 2 to 3 feet high. Around June, the female lays between 35 to 50 eggs – sometimes as many as 90 – that hatch after a 65-day incubation period. Toward the end of August, the young alligators begin making high-pitched noises from inside their eggs, letting the mother know that it is time to remove the nesting material.
8. Alligators don’t hibernate – well, not exactly.
While alligators do not hibernate, they undergo periods of dormancy when the weather becomes cold, digging what’s called a “gator hole” alongside waterways to be used when the temperature falls. In locations where the water level fluctuates, the alligators dig themselves into hollows in the mud, which then fill with water, creating tunnels as long as 65 feet that provide protection during extreme hot or cold.
9. They’re a lot faster than we are.
The record speed for a sprinting alligator is 27 mph – much faster than the average person can run. That’s why it’s so important to stay alert around any body of water in the Southeast, because there’s a good chance there’s an alligator nearby – and it’s a lot faster on its feet than you think.
Alligators are an important part of the Everglades ecosystem and are considered a keystone species of Everglades National Park. While American alligators are not considered endangered, they can be threatened by habitat lost due to wetland drainage and development. The Everglades Foundation’s work to restore and protect the Everglades, in turn, protects the habitat that is critical to the life of American alligators. The Everglades also is the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
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