American Alligator

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Species group:

Scientific name: Alligator mississippiensis

The basics:
One of the world’s largest and most formidable reptiles, the American Alligator makes a fine zoo exhibit but is far too large and dangerous for most private collections. It is a species best left to zoos or observed, with appropriate cautions, in the wild.

The American Alligator is found in the Southeastern USA, from southern Virginia along the Atlantic coast to Florida and west along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.

Once endangered, today this aquatic behemoth may be encountered in many permanent water bodies, including canals, rivers, ponds, streams and lakes. Its preferred habitats, however, are large swamps, marshes, and bayous.

Appearance / health:
American Alligators reach 3 – 4.5 meters (10-15 feet) in length, with larger males having been recorded in the past. The head is noticeably broad and the olive, brown, or black back is protected by bony plates known as osteoderms.

Zoo specimens commonly live into their 40’s and 50’s, with a longevity record of 73+ years.

Behavior / temperament:
While these intelligent creatures can become quite responsive, they cannot be “tamed”, and have been responsible for human fatalities

Zoos exhibit American Alligators in filtered habitats measuring at least 9 x 9 meters (30x30 ft) or enclosed outdoor ponds.

The natural diet is highly varied, and includes invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles (including other alligators), birds, mammals, and carrion. Predation on humans has been documented.

Females deposit 20-90 eggs in large nests constructed of vegetation, after which they remain nearby to repel predators. The eggs hatch in 65-80 days, and the young are guarded by their mother for a period of 5-12+ months.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


great conversation piece, amazing crocodilian, hardy animals, experienced keeper


adult size, dangerous animals, financial commitment, significant expense, special habitat

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