The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America. The first reptiles appeared 300 million years ago and ancestors of the American alligator appeared 160 million years ago. Reptiles are a cold-blooded animal, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the temperature of the environment around them. This is why alligators are seen basking in the sun, trying to regulate their body temperature. Because alligators are cold-blooded, their body rates are slowed down and they feed less frequently in winter months. For this reason, alligators enter underground holes/dens and remain dormant throughout the winter months.
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Alligators are about 8" - 12" in length when they are hatched from eggs. Growth rates may vary from 2" per year up to 12" per year, depending on the type of habitat in which the alligator is living and the sex, size and age of the alligator. Growth rates slow down as alligators become older. Male alligators will grow faster and larger than females. Females can grow to approximately 9' in length and 200+ pounds. Males can grow to approximately 13'+ in length and attain 500+ pounds.
Average life span in the wild: 35 to 50 years
Size: 10 to 15 ft (3 to 4.6 m)
Weight: 1,000 lbs (453 kg)
Group name: Congregation
Protection status: Recovered
Did you know? The largest American alligator ever reported was supposedly 19.8 ft (6 m) long, although there are doubts about the claim.
Fun Gator Fact :American alligators once faced extinction. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service placed them on the endangered species list in 1967. Fortunately, the legal protection worked. Just 20 years later, American alligators were taken off the list.