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American Alligator Overview

There are close to 8,000 different reptile species in the world, but one specific reptile has been making headlines for its ferocious nature. Find out a little more about alligators, right here!

Alligators: The Basics

Alligators are reptiles that call the southeastern United States home. They live in fresh or brackish (part salt, part fresh) water like swamps, marshes and canals and are primarily nocturnal animals who feed between dusk and dawn. Like most reptiles, alligators are cold-blooded and reproduce by laying eggs.

See Ya Later Alligator, In a While Crocodile

Alligators are often confused with the similar-looking reptilian species, the crocodile. These two animals are, however, different in many ways. While the crocodile has a long, V-shaped snout, the alligator has a shorter, much more rounded snout. Crocodiles have special salivary glands that excrete salt, making it easier for them to tolerate salt-water environments. Alligators, on the other hand, do not have these salivary glands and cannot live in salt water habitats. Crocodiles are also generally perceived as being much more aggressive than alligators.

A History of Violence

Historically, alligators are known as the less-violent, jaw-snappin' reptile, but there has beena dramatic increase in alligator attacks. Over the past 57 years, there have only been 17 or so cases of fatal alligator attacks across Florida. In May 2006, the state saw three fatal attacks in just a few short weeks. Conservationists blame the rise in attacks on the alligators' depleting habitat, low water levels after a violent hurricane season and humans' closer proximity to the sharp-toothed animal.

Did U Know?

  • Alligators live for approximately 30 to 35 years in the wild.
  • Alligators swallow their prey whole - from insects to small mammals.
  • The Alligator became the official state animal of Florida in 1987.
  • Alligators have 80 teeth - 40 on top and 40 on the bottom.
  • The word alligator comes from the Spanish words, el lagarto which means, the lizard.
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