Last Reviewed and Updated on June 6, 2022
Alligators are one of the most fierce-looking reptiles on our planet, right next to their close cousins of crocodiles. These two have been walking on earth for a long time, with some species’ predecessors coexisting with dinosaurs. Talk about ancient! Now let’s go through some of the most interesting facts about alligators besides that and we just know you will love these animals even more after learning them.
From fun to scary, here are some of our favorite alligator facts.
1. There are only two living species of alligators
While many different species were roaming the world at one time or another, most of them are now extinct. The two living species are the American alligator (A. mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (A. sinesis). The Chinese alligator is an endangered species.
2. The sex of the offspring is determined by temperature
This may well be one of the most interesting facts about alligators – the sex of their young ones is determined by the temperature in the nest. Lover temperatures (30°C/86°F) will result in the hatching of female alligators while higher temperatures (34°C/93°F or higher) will make the offspring male.
3. Mother alligators protect their offspring
Keeping the eggs safe isn’t uncommon for reptiles; however, caring for their offspring is. Alligators are currently the only species of reptiles that cares for and protects their young for a year. Now that’s a cool momma.
4. Once they lose a tooth, a new one grows to replace it
They can have up to 80 teeth and once they lose one, a new one will grow to replace it. This is super handy for a predator and they can grow over 2000 teeth in their lifetime. As these animals are quite ancient and go through lots of teeth in their life, finding a fossilized alligator tooth isn’t all that uncommon (they are really common in Florida).
5. Fun alligator fact: their eyes reflect light
You could almost say alligator eyes glow in the night! Their eyes, much like the eyes of a cat, reflect light. They have a tapetum lucidum on the back of their eyes, which is a layer of tissue that reflects visible light back. It takes just a small amount of light and their eyes will glow in the dark.
To make this alligator fact even more interesting, their eyes glow red. Quite menacing wouldn’t you say?
6. Alligators have great night vision
Their ability to reflect light and make their eyes glow red has its purpose. It grants alligators the ability of better night vision. You might not see them at the night, but they sure see you.
7. They generally don’t attack humans
There are many scary facts about alligators; they sure are dangerous looking and indeed are dangerous. However, these reptiles aren’t aggressive by nature, and unprovoked attacks rarely happen. Leave them alone, and they should leave you alone as well.
8. Alligators are opportunistic feeders
They will mostly eat at night. Young alligators will eat anything from insects, snails, and fish… They are not picky eaters. Adults will eat anything from birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals. They will also eat offspring from other alligators. Yikes!
9. They don’t chew their food
With so many teeth, you might expect they would tear their food into smaller bits or chew their food. However that is not the case. Their teeth are used solely for catching the prey, which they then swallow whole. They do crush the bones of larger prey with their jaws though.
10. They can digest bones
If you eat your meals as a whole, it’s handy to be able to digest everything. Bones and turtle shells included. Their stomach is very acidic, making their digestive system more efficient.
11. Alligators are ancient and haven’t really changed much
While the currently living species of alligators haven’t been around when dinosaurs walked the earth, they too are pretty ancient, the Chinese being present from Pliocene (5 million years ago) and the American from Miocene (23 million years ago). Now that’s quite some time to keep your appearances as they are.
Some of the predecessors of species alive today lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, and they looked pretty similar to today’s alligators if you exclude their size.
12. They are freshwater animals
You might find crocodiles both in freshwater and saltwater, but alligators reside in freshwater only. They may tolerate salt water for a while but can’t live in it. Swamps, lakes, and rivers are to their liking.
13. Female alligators are called cows, and males are called bulls
…and the baby alligator is called a… hatchling – you didn’t expect that did you? And while at it, a group of alligators is called a congregation. Seeing a congregation of alligators isn’t uncommon as they are quite social animals.
14. They have one of the most powerful bites in the world
One of the most interesting facts about alligators is the enormous strength of their bite. Their cousins, the crocodiles take the crown in this category, but alligators aren’t falling far behind.
16. They are cold-blooded
Not just cold-blooded killers of smaller animals, but also cold-blooded literally. This means they depend on external sources of heat (sun, soil, water, shade…) to maintain their body temperature. They will bask in the sun to increase their body temperature or cool off in water or shade to decrease it.
17. They can be loud
Alligators are quite vocal. They make loud noises called grunts, especially during the mating season.