Alligators: A Tale of Two Species

I always thought there were a lot of alligator species.  Then, I discovered that I was wrong and it’s crocodiles that are varied.  There are only two species of alligator.  They are actually pretty different from each other.  I’m going to change up the usual way I do facts and divide this post in half.

American Alligator

The American alligator is the one that most of us think of.  They’re large and found in the Southeastern region of the US, Mexico, and Tamaulipus.  They were endangered until they became protected in 1976, which has led to them now being listed as ‘least concerned’.  American alligators can range from 8-11 feet long.  They are powerful, opportunistic predators that use ambush tactics.  They will go after anything that gets too close, including humans.

Chinese Alligators

In contrast, the Chinese Alligator gets only 4-5 feet long.  They are also critically endangered and live in a small area of the Yangtze basin.  There are possibly less than 150 alive in the wild.  The reason for this is habitat fragmentation and contamination of their food sources by pesticides and fertilizers.  Unlike their larger relatives, they have blunter teeth to help them go for shellfish.  They never attack humans due to their size, but will go for smaller mammals.  Physically, the Chinese alligator’s snout tapers up instead of going straight like the American species.  They also have bony plates on their eyelids and bellies that the bigger species lacks.

Alligator Facts:

  • American alligator genders are determined by temperature.  If it goes below 86 F, all eggs will be female.  If it goes to 93 F or above, all eggs will be male.  The temperatures in-between will create a mix.
  • Alligators cannot survive in saltwater like crocodiles.  They lack the gland that helps them excrete salt from their bodies.
  • They can go through 3,000 teeth in their lifetime.
  • Unlike most reptiles, alligator moms actually raise their young.  This lasts for two years.
  • Alligator blood is antibiotic and antiviral.  It has been seen to protect alligators (not humans) from HIV-1, West Nile Virus, and Herpes.
  • Alligators can leap out of the water by their own body length.  I’ve seen that in action and it’s scary.
  • Chinese alligators dig extensive tunnel networks that they spend most of their time in.  They especially go into hiding to avoid humans.
  • Chinese alligators are also called Yangtze alligator, China alligator, and muddy dragon.
  • It is suggested that the Chinese alligator was the inspiration for the Chinese dragon.
  • Alligators have the strongest bites in the world.  Yet, the muscles to open their mouths are very weak.  A human can hold the mouth shut with their own hands or bind it with duct tape with minimal problems.  Of course, the real problem is that you’re holding the mouth of a thrashing, angry predator.

Let’s see some videos:

Almost forgot this fun part.  There is a fascination with albino alligators.  Yet, there are only about 100 in the world.  Mostly because they are born white, which makes them easy prey.  So, they don’t live very long.  Some have been put in captivity though, which allows them to grow up.  Like so:

Albino Alligator

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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26 Responses to Alligators: A Tale of Two Species

  1. Alligators are cool. Saw them everywhere when I visited Florida. Only saw one in Louisiana.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Really informative, Charles. I was fascinated! The albino alligators are spectacular. Do they breed true – ie albino offspring if mated with each other? The alligators are like tortoises, which also produce males or females depending on the temp the egg is exposed to.


  3. We have an albino alligator, Claude, at the California Academy of Sciences. He’s beautiful.

    I have seen one leucistic alligator (he was on loan to the San Francisco Zoo from the Audubon Zoo); they’re white with blue eyes. They’re extraordinarily rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The “muddy dragon” name is so fun, it makes me think of some fantastic creature.


  5. I am pleased to hear they look after their babies, I always feel sorry for those turtles coming out of their eggs and never seeing their mothers.
    Thank goodness we don’t change sex with a change in temperature!


  6. A terrific post on the alligators, Charles. The albino alligator would be worth seeing.


  7. Chel Owens says:

    I think I saw the albino one at our local zoo, as a traveling exhibit. Alligators are one of those creatures you love from a distance.


  8. V.M.Sang says:

    I had no idea there was a Chinese alligator. I have always thought that alligators were New World creatures and crocodiles, Old World. Seems I was wrong! ( Not an unusual occurrence.)
    Thanks for putting me right about this, Charles.
    The leaping alligator is scary!


  9. Neil Maxwell says:

    The difference between alligators and crocodiles – one you see later and the other in awhile.


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