Have you ever wanted to know where to see Alligators in the wild? Well clearly you are not the only one.
Interestingly the word “alligator” comes from the Spanish word “el lagarto,” which means “the lizard.” Alligators have lived on Earth for millions of years and are sometimes described as ‘living fossils.’
An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. The two extant species (existing species) are the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. Additionally, several extinct species of alligator are known from fossil remains.
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|Aspect||American Alligator||Chinese Alligator||Extinct Alligators|
|Scientific Name||Alligator mississippiensis||Alligator sinensis||Various extinct species|
|Length (Adult)||Males: 13 to 15 feet (4 to 4.5 meters)||Males: Up to 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m)||Varies based on species|
|Females: 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3 meters)||Females: Slightly smaller than males|
|Weight (Adult)||Males: 500 to 1,000 pounds (227 to 454 kg)||Males: 150 to 350 pounds (68 to 159 kg)||Varies based on species|
|Habitat||Freshwater environments:||Freshwater environments:||Varies based on species|
|Marshes, swamps, lakes, rivers, and ponds||Slow-moving rivers, streams, and marshes|
|Diet||Fish, turtles, birds, small mammals,||Fish, amphibians, crustaceans,||Varies based on species|
|and other aquatic creatures||and small mammals|
|Behavior||Cold-blooded reptiles||Cold-blooded reptiles||Varies based on species|
|Most active during warmer months||Hibernate in burrows during colder months|
|Conservation Status||Least Concern||Critically Endangered||Varies based on species|
|(Listed as one of the “precious and|
|rare species” in China)|
|Notable Fact||Largest reptile in North America||Most endangered crocodilian in the world||Extinct species are known from|
|Difference between Alligators||Broad, U-shaped snout||Narrow, V-shaped snout||N/A|
|and Crocodiles||(Both are species of genus Alligator)|
Types of Alligators; Lower classifications
|Scientific Name||Alligator mississippiensis|
|Length||Adult males: 13 to 15 feet (4 to 4.5 meters)|
|Females: 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3 meters)|
|Weight||Adult males: 500 to 1,000 pounds (227 to 454 kg)|
|Marshes, swamps, lakes, rivers, and ponds|
|Diet||Fish, turtles, birds, small mammals,|
|and other aquatic creatures|
|Most active during warmer months|
|Conservation Status||Least Concern|
The American alligator, sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator or common alligator, is a large crocodilian reptile native to the Southeastern United States, with a small population in Mexico. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), the larger of the two species, is found in the southeastern United States. It is black with yellow banding when young and is generally brownish when adult.
|Scientific Name||Alligator sinensis|
|Length||Adult males: Up to 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters)|
|Females: Slightly smaller than males|
|Weight||Adult males: 150 to 350 pounds (68 to 159 kg)|
|Slow-moving rivers, streams, and marshes|
|Diet||Fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and small mammals|
|Hibernate in burrows during colder months|
|Conservation Status||Critically Endangered|
The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator, China alligator, or historically the muddy dragon, is a crocodilian endemic to China. It and the American alligator are the only living species in the genus Alligator. The Chinese alligator (A. sinensis) is a much smaller, little-known reptile found in the Yangtze River region of China. It is similar to the larger form but attains a maximum length of about 2.1 metres (7 feet)—although usually growing to 1.5 metres—and is blackish with faint yellowish markings. Today, the Chinese alligator is widely regarded as the most endangered crocodilian in the world: it is ranked as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, listed in Appendix I of CITES, and considered a Class I Endangered Species in China. The Chinese alligator is also listed as one of 15 “precious and rare species” in a strategic plan for wildlife conservation in China developed in 2001. Fewer than 100 Chinese alligators are thought to remain, and thus the species is considered critically endangered .
You can donate to Chinese Alligator protection via the Chinese Alligator fund.
Extinct: prenasalis Alligators
Alligator prenasalis is an extinct species of alligator. It is well known, with many fossils having been collected from the Oligocene Chadron and Brule Formations in South Dakota. The species was first named in 1904, but was originally classified as a crocodile in the genus Crocodilus.
All about Alligators
America and China. The American alligator lives in the southern United States, from North Carolina to Texas, according to the Smithsonian Zoo. These gators can be found in slow-moving rivers, ponds, lakes and swamps. Chinese alligators live in eastern China, and they are confined to a small area in the Yangtze River basin near the Pacific Ocean. They are traditionally found in rivers, lakes, ponds and swamps, but are now confined mostly to ditches and ponds on agricultural land.
Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.
The adult alligator feeds mainly on fishes, small mammals, and birds but may sometimes take prey as large as deer or cattle. Though carnivores usually only eat meat, alligators will also munch on fruit such as wild grapes, elderberries, and citrus fruits directly from trees. Alligators may help spread the seeds of these fruits throughout their habitats.
Large male alligators are solitary territorial animals. Smaller alligators can often be found in large numbers close to each other. The largest of the species (both males and females) defend prime territory; smaller alligators have a higher tolerance for other alligators within a similar size class.
Alligators are often less dangerous than crocodiles because they are more choosy about their prey.
Alligators are social creatures and often stay in groups called congregations. These groups are typically seen basking in the sun or taking a swim. Alligators are ectothermic — they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures. While most reptiles have 3-chambered hearts, the heart of alligators, and all crocodilians, has 4 chambers, a trait shared with mammals and birds.
Breeding and Lifespan
In breeding season, courtship rituals include head-slapping on the water’s surface, snout and back rubbing, and blowing bubbles.There is a 65-day incubation period. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the young alligators make high-pitched noises from inside their eggs. This causes their mother to start digging them out of the nest and carrying her babies down to the water in her jaws. She may protect her young for up to a year and interestingly their sex is determined by temperature.
Average Lifespan is approximately 30-50 years however ther have been many alligators living beyond 50 years.
Alligators also use water to hunt. On land they are awkward, but in the water they can swim very quickly using their tails. This makes it easier for them to catch prey. American alligators can swim up to 20 mph (32.18 km/h) and run on land as fast as 11 mph (17.7 km/h).
Alligators have a variety of different calls to declare territory, signal distress, threaten competitors, and find mates. Although they have no vocal cords, alligators bellow loudly by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent roars. In addition to bellowing, alligators can growl, hiss, and make a cough-like sound called a chumpf.
The most recent evidence indicates that crocodilians (which includes alligators) and dinosaurs evolved from a common ancestor that existed subsequent to the common ancestor that they share with other reptiles. So, even though alligators are classified as reptiles along with lizards, snakes, and turtles, they are actually more closely related to birds, whose direct ancestors were dinosaurs!
With one of the three types of alligators already extinct, it is deeply saddening to know the Chinese Alligator is crtically endangered. he American alligator has been hunted for its hide, and its young have been sold in large numbers as pets. It disappeared from many areas where it was once abundant and was later given legal protection from hunters.
The difference between Alligators and Crocodiles
Typically, crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators, which makes crocodiles more dangerous than alligators. Alligators are opportunistic feeders. They do not hunt unless it is necessary. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that you should swim with them. Caution should be exercised at all times near alligators and crocodiles.
Crocodile vs alligator snout
Alligators have a wide, rounded, u-shaped snout, while crocodiles have long, pointed, v-shaped snouts.
Crocodiles are different from alligators in this sense, where both upper and lower jaws of a crocodile are the same size, exposing their teeth as they interlock, creating the look of a toothy grin.
Safety Tips for Alligator encounters
In many coastal regions, humans are encroaching on alligator habitat, so the two species are more likely to cross paths. Population growth and the tourism industry have increased the frequency of human-alligator interactions. It is therefore important to take the following safety precautions…
- Leave alligators alone. Alligators are shy animals that usually avoid human contact.
- Pay attention. …
- Do not feed alligators. …
- Throw fish scraps into trash cans. …
- Follow directions on signs. …
- Swim during daylight hours only. …
- Stay with children. …
- Keep an eye on your pets.
If you do have a close run-in with an alligator that charges at you, run away fast and straight, not zig-zag. It is unlikely, however, that an alligator will display this behavior unless you are near its nest.
Where to see Alligators?
Where to see alligators in America
- New Orleans, Louisiana.
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
- The Everglades, Florida.
- Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Alabama.
- Houston, Texas.
Tours & Operators
Where to see alligators in China
Today it is limited to the lower Yangtze river; the largest river in Asia, primarily in the Anhui and Zhejiang provinces in eastern China. Chinese alligators are found in slow-moving freshwater rivers and streams, including lakes, ponds and swamps.
Unfortunately it isn’t possible to book tours to see these alligators. One can visit alligators in parks across various parts of the country. However we cannot attest to the state of care for alligators. Let us know if you have visited any of these parks and whether or not you can recomend them for alligator encounters…
Where to see Alligators in the Wild: Summary
After reading this blog, would you like to see alligators in the wild? It is a privilege to witness the beauty of these majestic and prehistoric reptiles.
See ya later Alligator!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Alligators are native to only two countries: the United States and China. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is found in the southeastern United States, from North Carolina to Texas. The Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) is endemic to China, specifically in the Yangtze River region.
No, alligators are not native to Africa. They are found in the United States (American alligator) and China (Chinese alligator). In Africa, you can find different species of crocodiles, such as the Nile crocodile, the African dwarf crocodile, and the West African crocodile.
Yes, alligators are known to be cannibalistic, especially when food is scarce or during territorial disputes. Large alligators may prey on smaller ones, including juveniles or even members of their own species.
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