Alligator Fun Facts and Information

There are two species of living alligators, the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. Alligators first emerged on Earth about 37 million years ago. They are crocodilians, and are actually the closest living relative to birds, despite their drastic differences in appearance. One clue to their shared genes is that they both have unidirectional breathing, which means that instead of their respiratory system being a cycle, oxygen flows through their lungs without being pushed out again. This type of system is unusual, but shared by alligators and birds.

American Alligators
American Alligators


On average, an adult American alligator can weigh up to 800 pounds and be up to 14 feet long. The Chinese alligators are significantly smaller and lighter than their American counterparts. They are rarely close to 10 feet in length and weigh in at around 100 pounds.




Chinese Alligator
Chinese Alligator

Chinese alligators live in Eastern China and American alligators live in the Southern United States, from Florida to Texas. Both Louisiana and Florida have at least one million alligators. Their ideal habitat is wetlands or marshy water, where they can camouflage themselves among the algae and water plants. The Chinese alligator is found mostly in the Yangtze River. Chinese alligators are very endangered and there are numerous conservation efforts in America to help preserve their populations.


While moving on land, alligators was either drag themselves across the ground, called a sprawl, or stand up higher, called a high walk, to move over particularly marshy ground. For very short distances, they can walk on their hind legs or lunge forward.

The alligator’s jaws are evolved to grab and bite, and they pack quite a heavy bite. However, the muscles which allow the alligator to open their mouth are significantly weaker. Alligators prefer to eat prey which they can eat in one bite. They typically attack as the animal is drinking and may drag larger animals into the water to drown. When on land to kill their prey, they perform what is called the “death roll”, which looks like they are throwing their head side to side violently but is actually powered by the muscles in their tail.

Contrary to popular belief, alligators do not think of humans as prey and are generally scared of humans. They will walk or swim away upon encountering a human. However, if the human gets too close to them or their nest, then the alligator will naturally attack in self-defense.

The name alligator comes from the Spanish word “el lagarto”, which means “the lizard”. They were named by Spanish settlers in Florida, and the name was anglicized over time to alligator.


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