10 Incredible Alligator Facts

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: June 29, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/zhnger
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Native to the Southern US and China, alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) among the largest reptiles in the world. They look very similar to their cousins, crocodiles, which people often mistake them for. However, while crocodiles have a broad and short U-shaped snout, that of the crocodile is V-shaped and pointed. If you study them carefully, you’ll notice more differences. There are numerous exciting, unique facts to learn about this fascinating reptile. For example, did you know that alligators have two eyelids and are related to dinosaurs? We bet you didn’t. If you’re interested in learning more exciting information about alligators, there’s more where that came from. Check out these mind-blowing alligator facts below.

1. Alligators Are Shy

american crocodile vs american alligator
The largest American alligator on record was 19 feet, two inches!

iStock.com/Bradley Proxmire

We know this sounds ridiculous considering their large size, but it’s true. Alligators are surprisingly shy animals and tend to be as shy as they’re big. Unlike crocodiles, alligators try to avoid humans and will not chase people except as a defensive mechanism. They’ll typically retreat when they find a human being approaching.

So, whenever you hear stories of alligators attacking humans, find out what the person did to provoke this shy reptile.

2. Alligators Have One of the Strongest Bites in the World

Gator from Lakeland Florida
Alligators have a bite force of 2980 PSI.

iStock.com/Alex Pankratov

The American alligator has one of the world’s strongest bite forces; its bite force strength is next after the Nile crocodile, great white shark, and saltwater crocodile. Other animals in this list include the hippopotamus, jaguar, gorilla, polar bear, spotted hyena, and grizzly bear. American alligators have lower jaws and teeth that fit so well into their upper jaws that there’s no visible lower tooth when they close their mouths. Although they have weak jaw-opening muscles, alligators maintain a bite strength of 2,980 PSI.

3.  Alligators Don’t Have Sweat and Salt Glands

Unlike humans and other warm-blooded animals, alligators can’t regulate their body temperatures internally. Why? The answer is simple—they don’t have sweat glands. 

So, alligators regulate body temperature instead of sweating by opening their mouths to cool off. Alternatively, they may go swimming or find a shady environment. They’ll typically look for a sunny location when they want to keep warm.

Again, alligators don’t have sweat glands. That’s why you’ll hardly find them in salty water. Even when you do, they won’t stay there for long. Most of the time, alligators live in freshwater habitats even if they can adapt to other environments.

4. Temperature Determines Gender in Alligators

baby alligator portrait
The sex of an alligator is determined by the temperature of egg incubation.

Tony Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Baby alligators are called hatchlings, and their sex depends on the temperature of the nests where they incubate. Amazing, right? The eggs will produce male hatchlings if the temperature is above 91.4 Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, female hatchlings require a temperature below 82.4 Fahrenheit.

It gets more interesting. When the temperature is around 87.8 Fahrenheit (F), there’ll likely be an equal number of male and female hatchlings. Typically, the female to male gender ratio is 5 to 1. Unfortunately, hatchlings have a low survival rate. That’s usually a result of flooding and predators. While female alligators may lay up to 50 eggs in a clutch, only about 2 to 14 of them survive. So, it’s a good thing there are more female alligator hatchlings than males, yes?

5. Alligators are Extremely Vocal 

From hissing to growling and grunting, alligators are one of the most vocal non-avian reptiles ever. In their mating season (from May to June), one can find them making noisy grunts which we refer to as bellows. The shocking thing about this is that alligators don’t even have vocal cords. No one knows why alligators bellow all year long, but some experts think it helps them find their mates and solve territorial issues. They make their loud grunts above or below water when they breathe out.

6. Alligators Can Climb Trees 

For some reason, many people believe that alligators are poor climbers. Would it surprise you to know that that’s a big misconception? Alligators can be skilled climbers and use their claws (also adapted for swimming) and stubby legs to climb trees.

However, they’ll only climb trees that are firm to accommodate their weight. In some cases, you’ll find them climbing fences.

Why do alligators climb trees? We don’t know for sure. Some people think it’s part of their efforts to regulate body temperature. 

7. Alligator Blood Has Antibiotics

The antibiotics in the alligator’s blood are one fascinating fact about this species of reptile. Scientists have found that alligator blood contains a good amount of antibiotics. It’s probably one of the reasons they live pretty long and have no finite lifespan. The antibiotics in their blood help them combat infections and fight viruses/bacteria. Alligators continue to grow in size instead of aging biologically. In other words, they don’t die from old age and are often referred to as “biologically immortal.” The world’s oldest alligator, Muja, is 85 years old.

8. Alligator Tears Are Real

When we say people are crying crocodile (or alligator) tears, we mean that their tears are hypocritical or fake. That’s because, like many other reptiles, crocodiles and alligators cry when they eat their victims. So, alligators cry real tears, but the reason is to clean or moisturize their eyes.

9. There Are Less Than 120 Chinese Alligators Left in the Wild West

There are currently two species of alligators alive — the American alligator (A. mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (A. Sinensis). Although American alligators were once an endangered species, they’re now classified as “least concern” due to their population increase.

Unfortunately, Chinese alligators are currently endangered. Their population has declined since around 5000 BC due to habitat loss and fragmentation. There are less than 120 of them alive at this time.

10. A Group of Alligators is a Congregation, But They’re Lone Rangers 

While a group of crocodiles is called a “bask,” a group of alligators is a congregation. Unfortunately, you’ll hardly find a congregation of large male alligators as they are primarily solitary and territorial. They don’t like to share their space with others. Meanwhile, you’re likely to come across a congregation of smaller alligators. Small alligators are more tolerant of other animals and live close to each other.

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