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Southern Company River Scout

American alligator

American alligator

(Alligator mississippiensis)

The American alligator is found in the southeastern U. S. from North Carolina to Florida and westward to Texas and Oklahoma. It occurs in most freshwater habitats and occasionally will enter brackish water around mangrove swamps. Adult males can grow to 14 feet in length while females reach about 10 feet. Both sexes can live 30 – 40 years in the wild.

The female American alligator builds a nest of mud, sticks and leaves above the high water level and lays 20 – 50 eggs in it. She guards the nest for about nine weeks until the young hatch and then she carries them down to the water in her mouth in small groups. She continues to guard her young for another 12 months.

Learn more about Georgia Aquarium's alligators!

Fun Facts

  • An American alligator can be distinguished from a crocodile by the arrangement of its teeth. The alligator’s teeth in its lower jaw are usually hidden under the edge of its wide upper jaw. In the crocodile, some of the lower jaw teeth are visible on the outside of the upper jaw.
  • The gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature in the nest during incubation. Males are produced in the warmer parts and females in the cooler areas.
  • Juvenile alligators have black backs with bright yellow cross-bands. The stripes disappear in the adult.
  • The tail of an adult American alligator makes up about one half of its body length.
  • Alligators have between 74 and 80 teeth that are used for grasping and tearing prey.
  • Download full fact sheet

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