American Alligator

This big reptile is believed to have gotten its name from the Spanish word, “el lagarto” (the lizard). As a reptile, the ‘gator is cold blooded, and active only when temperatures are favorable. During winter, the alligator can survive on the fat in its tail.

American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

Habitat: Southeastern United States freshwater, lowlands, rivers, marshes and swamps.

Diet in the wild: Aquatic animals and any others wandering near the water’s edge

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Rabbit, chicken and fish

Size: 6-12 feet long; weigh 150-300 pounds

Family: Hatchlings are about 8 inches long and receive minimal protection from mother.

Status: Least Concern. In recent years, alligator numbers have made a come-back. Today alligators are farmed for their meat and hides and are protected from being hunted to extinction. Loss of habitat is now the biggest threat.

Did you know? You can tell an alligator from a crocodile by looking at the teeth. When an alligator’s mouth is closed, the only teeth visible are the uppers, but a crocodile will have both rows of teeth exposed. An alligator has homodont teeth—all looking the same. At any time the ‘gator can have 74-80 teeth in its mouth, but as teeth wear out, they are replaced. This reptile can go through 2,000-3,000 teeth in a lifetime. A lack of tooth replacement indicates old age.



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