American Alligator

Scientific Name

Alligator Mississippiensis

Description

The American alligator is the largest reptile in North America, reaching over 16 feet from head to tail. The young are black or dark gray with bright yellow stripes. As they age, they lose the yellow, leaving only a black or dark gray coloring.

Food

The American alligator feeds on a variety of animals. They will eat almost any prey that comes within range. They will also eat the carcass of an animal if given the chance. Alligators will eat any time, but only if the temperature of the water is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Young alligators eat mostly insects and small fish. They use their tongue to seal their throat when they open their mouth to grab their food.

Habitat

The range of the American alligator includes all of the land along the bank of the Gulf of Mexico.

Predators

Alligators are most vulnerable when they are still in the egg or very young. Raccoons, large fish, and birds are the biggest predators, but some dominant males will also kill the babies.

Social Structure

The young alligators for a pod that may even include young alligators from other nests. This pod may stay near a mother for up to 3 years.

Birth & Offspring

A female alligator will lay between 20 and 50 eggs in a nest made of rotting vegetation and mud. She then covers the eggs with more vegetation. In the end, the nest can be over 3 feet high and 6 feet wide. The female will remain near the nest to protect her unborn children. When the eggs hatch, about 65 days later, the mother opens the nest and carries the babies to the water. The young will stay near the mother for up to 3 years.

4 Baby Alligators Sitting on a rock out of the water

How Fast Can an Alligator Run?

Large alligators can run up to 20 miles per hour on land.

As cold-blooded animals, alligators depend on weather conditions for their temperature. They reach their maximum speed as they get their highest temperature. They are capable of short bursts of speed, but it’s the large alligators that can run faster than younger ones. 

However, alligators can tire from running on dry land very quickly since they cannot move across long distances. They belong in the water where they are capable of swimming much faster. They also feed on their prey in or nearby forms of water.

It is difficult to determine how fast alligators run, even for experts. Scientists’ data on alligators’ movement speeds come from their reports on laboratory trials where they train alligators to walk and run on treadmills. Also, their tiny sample of alligators is usually small in size since they are easier to work with than larger ones. You can just imagine that these small alligators probably do not clock their species’ maximum speeds, compared with how fast they can be in the wild. Experts like Kent A. Vliet, author of “Alligators ; The Illustrated Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation,” still try their best to make their best guess on how fast an alligator is on land. Vliet approximates that an adult alligator can run at a speed of 8.5 miles per hour (14kph) over a short distance. Other studies report that large alligators can run much faster – from 11-20 miles per hour. 

You might think that these rates are too fast, but chances are you can actually outrun most alligators. An average person can run around 18 miles per hour over a short distance. To compare it with the fastest human in the world, Usain Bolt can run up to 27.8 miles per hour, the fastest record speed in the world.

When an alligator walks in normal circumstances, they only move around 1.25-2.5 miles per hour (2-4 kph). This speed can get slow for smaller alligators with only a maximum speed of 0.67 miles per hour (1.08 kph). 

How Fast Can Alligators Swim?

Alligators are aquatic animals, so they swim faster than they can run on dry land. You may notice that their prey are often in or near the water, which is why they have evolved to be speedy in their natural habitat. 

Since alligators move a lot faster on the water than on land, they can out swim an average person. An averagely-skilled swimmer can swim approximately 2 miles per hour (3.2 kph). Adult alligators usually swim at around 1.25-2.5 miles per hour (2-4 kph), and that’s only when they are cruising. 

When moving in short bursts, they can swim as much as 20 miles per hour. Compared with humans, the record speed of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps is at 6 miles per hour (9.6 kph). 

Alligator Vs. Crocodile

How fast can a crocodile run?

The quickest crocodile in the world has a record speed of 10.56 miles per hour.

To differentiate alligators from crocodiles, alligators have snouts that are broader, rounder, and more parallel-sided. From above, you can see that an alligator’s snout resembles a U-shape. On the other hand, crocodiles have narrower and more pointed snouts, which somewhat look like a V-shape. 

The fourth tooth of an alligator on its lower jaw fits into an internal socket in the upper jaw, so they are hidden when its mouth is closed. A crocodile’s fourth tooth on either side is always exposed.

In terms of speed, alligators can be much faster than crocodiles. Of course, their relative speeds still vary depending on the size, temperature, terrain, and many other factors. This is why it can be somewhat difficult to compare them with very little data involved.

Can a Racehorse Outrun an Alligator?

An alligator cannot run faster than a racehorse.

A racehorse clocks at a speed of around 40 miles per hour, whereas an alligator can only run at a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Alligators’ full speed only coincides with a human running speed. 

Also, alligators only run this fast when they are running away from danger or to catch a prey over short distances. In this case, you are most likely to outrun a running alligator in the rare case that it speeds at you. Use it to your advantage. 

What To Do If An Alligator Chases You

Here are some tips for surviving an alligator approaching you. While we genuinely hope that you may never need this survival guide, try to remember them. Or at least, always follow tip #1.

Don’t bother them.

Don’t go near alligators nor feed them. If you’re swimming in freshwater, avoid doing so during peak alligator time, from dusk to dawn. 

Run as fast you can.

When you see an alligator near you, run immediately. Alligators can charge at you at a very high speed, so get out of the area and outrun them as fast as you can. Run in a straight line. Doing zig-zags will only hinder you from getting away from them more quickly.

Make a commotion.

If you cannot run away anymore, make noise and commotion by shouting and hitting the alligator. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises that the alligator might think that you’re not worth the effort if you keep doing this.

Target vulnerable spots

Always aim for the snout and eyes to irritate the alligator. Successfully doing so will allow them to release you from their jaws.

Send this to a friend