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.
Distribution: Freshwater habitats such as slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes and lakes in the southeastern United States.
Diet in the Wild: : Fish, birds, frogs, mammals and large crustaceans such as crabs.
Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Fish, chicken and meat
Status: Least Concern, population trend unknown. 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.
Alligators can be distinguished from crocodiles by their snout and teeth. Alligators have a wider snout, and only their upper teeth can be seen when their mouth is closed. Crocodiles have a more pointed snout, and both upper and lower sets of teeth are visible when their mouth is closed.
Whether an alligator is male or female is determined by the temperature that its egg is incubated at in the nest during development. Females hatch from eggs incubated at less than 86ºF (30ºC), while males hatch from eggs incubated at more than 93ºF (34ºC).