Crocodillia (calmans, crocodiles and relatives)
Crocodylidae (crocodiles and relatives)
Habitat & Range
American Alligators can only be found in the Southeastern United States. They inhabit freshwater streams, swamps, marshes, ponds and lakes. They prefer freshwater environments due to fact that, unlike crocodiles, the salt glands on their tongues are non-functioning. Males typically occupy open waters, while females and juveniles prefer swamps and streams.
An adult alligator ranges in size from 8.5 to 11 feet. Males are much larger than females, weighing an average of 500 pounds, while females average only 200 pounds. The snout is more broad and blunt than that of a crocodile. They have short legs, a wide tail and strong jaws. The eyes and nostrils are positioned on top of the head, which allows for them to be almost completely submerged and still able to see and breathe. Their back is armored with black-brown scales, while their chest is pale yellow.
Most alligators feed on a wide variety of animals, including fish, snakes, lizards, turtles, water birds, and the occasional mammal. Young alligators mostly eat invertebrates such as snails, spiders and worms.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Mating season begins in the spring, at which point the female builds a nest of sticks, leaves and mud either in or near the water. She lays between 20 and 50 eggs in the nest and remains with them for the entirety of the 65-day incubation period. Eggs that hatch at a temperature of 93 degrees or higher become male, and those hatched below 86 degrees become female.
Fantastic Facts Optimal Optics
Like many animals, alligators have two eyelids to protect each eye. However, when an alligator submerges, a clear, third eyelid covers each eye. This eyelid acts as swim goggles and helps them to see objects clearly under water.
Copyright 2015 Elmwood Park Zoo
1661 Harding Blvd
Norristown, PA 19401
Main Number: 800.652.4143
Fax Number: 610.292.0332