American Alligator

Alligator Mississippiensis

Scientific Name

American Alligator:  
Alligator Mississippiensis

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

The American alligator can be found in warm wetlands and swamps of the southeastern United States from North Carolina to Texas.

Natural Habitat

They frequent freshwater lakes and lagoons surrounded by swamps or forested areas.

Physical Characteristics

  • The maximum recorded length for an alligator is nineteen feet, two inches. However, the average adult could total a length of twelve feet and weigh between 400and 500 pounds. The coloration of alligators changes with age. Young alligators are dark or black with yellow crossbands. The yellowish markings usually fade with maturity and adult specimens are a uniform black or dull gray. The American alligator differs from the American crocodile by the shape of the head. The alligator has a broad head and rounded snout while the crocodile head is narrow. Generally, alligators weigh about one-third more than crocodiles. This is mainly due to a more massive skull and stouter body.

Quick Facts

  1. Alligators and crocodiles are descendants from reptiles that lived between 225 and 65 million years ago.

  2. Alligators have been relentlessly hunted for their hides. Juveniles also have been removed from the wild for use in the pet trade. Under state and federal protection, their numbers are starting to make a comeback. Limited hunting is currently allowed.

Exhibit

Reptile House

Conservation Status

Least Concern: The American Alligator is common or abundant and is likely to survive in the wild.

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Diet

Carnivore

In the wild, the American alligator will prey on and attack fish, mammals and birds. While in captivity, they are fed rats, rabbits and mackerel.