What Do Alligators Eat?
Posted In: Reptiles.
Alligators are an amazing kind of reptile that has been found to exist since the times of dinosaurs. Very surprisingly, they have survived the passage of time without any big changes in their physical features. Alligators are carnivores, and are an important component of the world’s wildlife heritage. They play a very crucial role in the ecosystems where they live.
There are only two known alligator species that we can find today. One is the American alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis) and the other is the Chinese alligator (Alligator Sinensis). Both look pretty much the same with the American alligator growing much larger, averaging twice the length and weight of the Chinese alligator.
During dry seasons, alligators make what is called as “gator holes” which are often the only sources of water in their localities. These set-ups offer sustenance not only to the alligators, but also to other wild life inhabiting the area. Gars are a trash fish variety commonly consumed by alligators. Because of this, the game fish varieties like bass are saved from being eaten by gars. Alligators are deemed a renewable resource these days and alligators have started playing a significant role in the aquaculture industry of the U.S.
When they are hatched from their eggs, alligators are typically about 10-12 inches in length. Depending on where they live, the growth rate might vary between two inches to 12 inches per year. The other factors that determine the growth are the sex, size and the age of the alligators. As the alligators mature, their growth rate slows down. It is usual to find male alligators growing faster and larger in size than the females. One of the largest alligators found on the Marsh Island of Louisiana measured about 19 feet and 2 inches. The average life span of alligators is about 70 years. However, they may live longer, for about 100 years. To achieve this, they need to successfully survive a tough life which includes attacks, fights and bites by other members.
Alligators have very interesting dietary habits
When they are young, alligators feed on small animals including crayfish, frogs, snails, small fish and insects. As they grow in size, their diet changes gradually to include other larger animals like crabs, rats, frogs, small birds and larger fish. At full maturity, alligators even eat bigger animals like nutria, beaver, large birds, turtles, snakes, deer, raccoons, muskrats and larger fish varieties.
Alligators are fully carnivores
On dissection, alligators’ stomachs were also found to contain stones, fishing lures, a number of items and cans. Mostly their feeding time is at nights. Alligators don’t chew or cut their meal. They swallow their prey as a whole. The teeth of alligators are conical in shape. They are just designed to catch their prey and grab it firmly without escape. The teeth of the alligators are not meant for cutting or tearing their prey. If they happen to catch larger animals, they can’t cut them just by the use of their teeth; rather they will have to shake and swing their head or spin their bodies to tear out a piece that they can swallow. Sometimes, they even hold their food in their mouths for so long to let it deteriorate and become suitable to swallow.
Related to alligators: Crocodiles.
More on alligators: Facts about alligators.