Alligators are not only fierce but intensely interesting. Despite their destructive properties, they are an essential part of the animal kingdom and help maintain the natural balance. Discover what makes them unique and important to the environment.
There are two species of alligators. They can be found in both Asia and North America. The American Alligator weighs about half-a-ton and can reach lengths of 11-15 feet long.
Chinese Alligators are smaller in general. These alligators are several feet shorter than their American counterparts, averaging lengths of four feet. They only weigh about 50 pounds. Don’t be fooled, however, as the Chinese Alligator is also impressively fierce.
What you should know
There are a number of significant facts to know about both the Chinese and American Alligator. Both are unique in their own way and offer much to appreciate.
The American Alligator
The lifespan of an American Alligator in the wild is rather remarkable as they can live between 35 to 50 years. In contrast to the Chinese Alligator, these American cousins are now thriving rather than nearly extinct.
Although female American Alligators live in dense populations rife with males, the species is largely monogamous. It is not uncommon for an American Alligator to retain a single partner for most of their life. The monogamy of the American Alligator is in direct contrast to scientific expectations.
The Chinese Alligator
Known scientifically as the Alligator sinensis, Chinese Alligators live in Eastern China. As one of the only two surviving species of alligators, they are listed as an endangered species. Compared to their American counterparts, Chinese Alligators sport an even tougher armored skin.
These alligators take to the fertile valleys and paddy fields favoring temperate to subtropical climates. Over the years, the encroachment of progress has come to threaten the Chinese Alligator and they are now very difficult to find.
Chinese Alligators lay around 20-30 eggs which are the smallest in size in comparison to other crocodilian species. While smaller, they tend to live much longer than American Alligators. These creatures can live up to 50 years in the wild. In captivity, however, they can live even longer, around 75 years.
Another attribute that separates the Chinese alligator from American ones is the fact that they are primarily polygynous, with each alligator mating with multiple partners over their lifetime.
What sound do they make?
Alligators make sounds that resemble a deep bellow with a sort of echo-like effect. Listening to the alligator’s low rumbling growl, one can detect the prehistoric undertones of this magnificent animal.
These capable predators typically make their homes on land where they bask in the sun in between meandering out for a bite to eat. They’ll eat small mammals like birds and also snakes, fish, and turtles.
How many are there?
There’s a significant disparity between how many Chinese alligators are left in the wild as opposed to the American ones. Presently, there are fewer than 120 Chinese alligators remaining in the wild. The continued destruction of their natural habitat is the primary contributing factor to their decline.
American alligators are doing much better and are approximately five million strong. About 1.25 million alligators reside in the state of Florida alone.
Watch a video
Although the sound alligators make has been described, there’s nothing like hearing them for yourself. In this video, you can hear the alligators very clearly and see how the sounds they make hearken to prehistoric times.
No discussion of alligators would be complete without mentioning pop culture references like the 1999 film, ‘Lake Placid.’ Long before the movie was made, an alligator was reportedly spotted in New York’s Lake Placid. The story was featured in The New York Times in 1903.
One unique characteristic that distinguishes alligators from other reptiles is that they have four-chambered hearts whereas most reptiles have three-chambered hearts.
As a species, alligators are 150 million years old. These savvy reptiles managed to survive the extinction that decimated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.