Inhabiting the southeastern United States and eastern China, the alligator is one of the largest reptiles in the world. Because of this, they are the apex predators wherever they dwell and are crucial for the biodiversity of their environment. The only predator alligators have to fear is humans, and in most cases, the fear goes both ways.
Types of Alligators and Their Sizes
Alligators belong to the family Alligatoridae, one of the three main branches of the reptilian order Crocodilia. There are only two species of alligators. The first is the American alligator, which inhabits the southeastern United States. The second is the Chinese alligator, which lives in eastern China, mostly in the Anhui and Zhejiang provinces.
Both the American and Chinese alligators are sexually dimorphic, meaning that there’s a distinct difference in size between the sexes in addition to differing reproductive organs. On the whole, males grow larger than female alligators.
Size of American Alligators
The typical adult female measures around eight feet in length and weighs up to 200 pounds. On the other hand, male alligators may grow to 11 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Size of Chinese Alligators
The typical size of a female Chinese alligator is around four feet in length, whereas a male Chinese alligator can reach five feet or more in length. They are quite smaller than their American counterpart. Most Chinese alligators weigh less than 50 pounds but may reach 85 pounds.
How Big Are Alligators When They Are Born?
While the size difference is significant between adult American and Chinese alligators, they are nearly the same size when they hatch.
Size of Baby American Alligators
When the baby alligator emerges from the egg, it measures six to eight inches long and weighs about 56 grams. After hatching, baby alligators congregate in groups called “pods.” Because they are so small, the pods help keep the little alligators safe from predators. About 80 percent of baby alligators are eaten by predators like snakes, raccoons, birds, and more. The young that survive grow about a foot in their first year of life.
Size of Baby Chinese Alligators
When Chinese alligators hatch, they measure about 7.8 to 8.6 inches in length and weigh about 25 to 30 grams. Once they hatch, the mother Chinese alligator gently carries the young to the water.
Alligator Vs. Human Comparison
American alligators, on average, are larger than humans. Where American alligators are between 400 and 800 pounds, humans are only about 120 to 200 pounds on average. And, while the average human only stands at five feet and nine inches, American alligators are three to six feet longer than that.
However, when compared to Chinese alligators, humans are bigger. Taller and heavier than the typical Chinese alligator, humans outmatch this species of alligator.
Biggest Alligator Ever Recorded
The longest alligator on record measured 19 feet and 2 inches in length. And the heaviest alligator, found near Gainesville, Florida, weighed an impressive 1,043 pounds. It should be no surprise that both of these specimens were American alligators.
Are Alligators Bigger Than Sharks?
When measuring an American alligator against a shark, it really is no contest. Sharks can grow between 11 feet and 21 feet long, whereas it is unusual for an alligator to surpass 11 feet. Plus, sharks typically grow to be 1,000 to 2,400 pounds. Not even the largest alligator ever recorded can match that figure.
Are Alligators Bigger Than Crocodiles?
Of the two, crocodiles grow much bigger than alligators. A typical female saltwater crocodile may reach 8.9 to 11 feet in length, whereas a male may grow to be 11 to 20 feet in length. Typically, saltwater crocodiles weigh between 330 and 660 pounds, but some of the bigger males have been known to surpass 2,600 pounds. All in all, crocodiles are much bigger than American and Chinese crocodiles.
One of the Largest Reptiles in the World
While the American alligator may not be the largest reptile in the world, it is still in the top five largest reptiles. As you can imagine, several crocodile species and the leatherback sea turtle beat the American alligator as far as weight goes. But a male alligator can grow to over 1,000 pounds, which is the weight of four refrigerators! Clearly, the American alligator is one of the most impressive reptiles in the world.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ernie Hounshell/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.