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Alligator Facts

Size 5-20 ft (1.5-6 m)
Speed Up to 10.5 mph (17 km/h) (onshore); 20 mph (32 km/h) (in water)
Weight Up to 1,000 lb (454 kg)
Lifespan 30-60 years
Food Mammals, fish, birds
Predators -
Habitat USA, China
Class Reptiles
Order Crocodiles
Family Alligators
Scientific name Alligatoridae
Characteristics Strong tail, two eyelids

Main Characteristics

The alligator family comprises the Mississippi alligator, the China alligator, and caimans. The following article contains information on the China and the Mississippi alligators.

Alligator Alligator - Photo: Svetlana Foote/Shutterstock


Where Does the Name Alligator Come From?

The word alligator derives from the Spanish term “el lagarto” and means lizard.


Anatomy and Appearance

How Can You Identify an Alligator?

If you look at an alligator from the side, it always appears to be smiling.

Alligators Have 2,000 to 3,000 Teeth

Alligators have between 74 and 80 teeth at the same time. They are wearing off over time and get replaced. It is not unusual, that an alligator has between 2,000 and 3,000 teeth in the course of its lifetime.


Paddling for Pros

Alligators use their feet if they want to swim slowly and their tail if they want to be really fast. On land the use their feet to move around. Did you know? Alligators cannot move backwards.

Alligator Alligator - Photo: Ekaterina Prokovsky/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

How Strong Is an Alligator Bite?

An alligator crushes every single bone when biting. Only the white shark has even stronger jaws than the alligator. One might think that the alligator is equally strong when it comes to opening its mouth. But this is not the case. The muscles that open its snout are so weak that a human can keep it shut with his bare hands. Beware: It can be extremely dangerous to touch an alligator. Only specially trained animal attendants are allowed to do this.


Importance to the Ecosystem

Alligators are like landscape gardeners. They form little hollows in the ground and fill them with water – small ponds so to say. During dry periods those ponds become real oases for all animals, e.g. in winter at the Everglades National Park (Florida, USA).

The Alligator is a Keystone Species

Animals that are fairly rare, but also have a great influence on the biodiversity in their habitat are called keystone species. The alligator is one of those keystone species, because with the small ponds it creates it helps many other animal species to survive – even if it eats one or another animal occasionally.

Alligator Alligator - Photo: Bonnie Fink/Shutterstock


After mating, the female alligator lays up to 50 eggs, but cannot hatch them because it would crush them under its weight. How does it keep the eggs warm? It builds a nest of rotting plants. The emerging fermentation gas radiates warmth. When hatching after about two months, the babies are 6-8 inch (15-20 cm) long. During the first two years, the mother protects the young ones from raccoons, snakes, and other animals of prey. After this period they are left on their own.

Alligators Are Romantics

Alligators fondle the back of their beloved, blow little bubbles against her cheek under water and swim in circles with her. Sweet, isn’t it?

Alligators at the Airport

Sometimes alligators collide with aeroplanes – not in the air, but while crawling over the takeoff runway. There is about one of those accidents every year.

Fun Facts

Great Honor for the Alligator

Since 1987, the alligator is featured on one of the official emblems of Florida.

Alligator Alligator - Photo: Rudy Umans/Shutterstock

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