Alligators are crocodilian reptiles within the genus Alligator. What is really interesting about alligators is that these reptiles are actually related to dinosaurs. However, unlike their less fortunate relatives, they managed to avoid becoming extinct.
Alligators live and hunt on the ground or in the water, most of us already know this.
So what are these weird rumors going around about alligators climbing trees? Can alligators actually climb trees?
This is what we’ll discuss in this article.
Can alligators climb trees?
Both alligators and crocodiles can climb trees, and this is documented in scientific studies, and occasionally caught on camera. It actually depends on their weight and if the trees are strong enough to hold them. But assuming that the particular alligators in question aren’t too heavy, they are definitely capable of climbing trees, and they actually do this pretty frequently.
Okay, so they climb trees – but why?
No one is actually really sure why alligators climb trees, but most believe that it probably has something to do with body temperature regulation. As ectotherms (ie. they get their heat from the environment rather than generating it themselves, like mammals do), they are easily affected by changes in temperature and often need to move to warmer areas in order to stop themselves from losing too much body heat.
So, climbing trees probably helps bring them to a warmer place, or away from cold water, thus helping them regulate their body temperature.
There are only two species of alligator that still exist today: the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, and the Chinese alligator, Alligator sinensis. Given these names, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these species can be found in either the United States (particularly in the southern states) or Eastern China.
The American alligator is quite large and will eat practically anything that comes near the edge of the water, and frequently eat raccoons. There have also been cases of alligators eating pets such as dogs and cats, but this happens less frequently. On the other hand, due to their small stature, Chinese alligators eat smaller prey such as fish and sometimes ducks. Both species are only found near freshwater.
Alligators vs crocodiles
While alligators may look almost identical to crocodiles at first glance, they are actually very different. Although both are placed in the order Crocodilia, alligators and crocodiles are in two different families: Alligatoridae and Crocodylidae. The differences do not end here. Furthermore, they live in different habitats: alligators are found in freshwater, but crocodiles can live in both saltwater and brackish water and not freshwater.
You can also tell them apart just by looking at them. Crocodiles can be identified by their V-shaped snouts (more pointed), and you know you’re looking at an alligator if the snout is U-shaped (more rounded).
What do alligators use their claws for?
Alligators primarily use their claws for swimming, rather than catching prey like many other predators (they use their strong jaws to chomp down on unsuspecting animals, not their claws). Their claws actually help them swim through the water at astonishing speeds: they can swim up to twenty miles per hour!
They are also known for using their claws to create what are colloquially called “gator holes”. “Gator holes” are holes that alligators dig in marshes that will eventually fill with water when it rains. Once these holes have become like tiny ponds, wildlife flourishes inside them and often small animals will visit the holes in search of water and food. The alligators can now use the pond to catch prey more easily. In a way, this is kind of like farming!
How many claws does an alligator have?
Alligators actually have different numbers of claws depending on if you are looking at their front or hind legs. While their front legs have five claws each, their back legs only have four.
This would make for a total of 18 claws that an alligator has.
Can alligators climb fences?
The answer is yes, alligators can sometimes climb fences. There are various news reports of alligators climbing up fences, so it is definitely possible. What is not clear is why they might do this – one possibility is that there is a water source on the other side of the fence and they are simply looking for a new place to stay and more prey to catch.
Can alligators climb stairs?
Yes, alligators can climb stairs and have been documented climbing stairs, especially those leading to houses. It is not clear, however, if they can climb multiple flights of stairs for extended periods of time. But they can definitely climb those three steps outside your front door without any difficulty.
Can alligators jump?
Due to the muscular strength of their tails, alligators can jump out of the water to catch their prey. They can jump pretty high too: up to six feet. That’s longer than the height of the average human! Jumping helps them catch prey such as birds that might be flying above or other animals that might be lurking up high in the trees.
Not only can they jump out of water, but they can also jump on land. This is more rare, and they can’t jump as high as they only have the power of their hind legs to propel them upwards, but it is still possible.
Can alligators run fast?
Alligators are quite large and heavy for reptiles, so it might surprise you that they can actually run pretty fast. They can run up to eleven miles per hour. And, in short bursts, alligators can run over 20mph! Compare this to the average human, who can only run up to fifteen miles per hour in short bursts.
Pretty impressive, considering how heavy alligators are and how short their legs are! Plus, if for some reason you run in a zig-zag pattern, they can actually run even faster. Their blind spot is directly in front of their nose, so if you think running in different directions is going to help you, you’d be wrong. You would actually be helping them catch you.
How much do alligators weigh?
As mentioned before, there are actually two different species of alligator that exist today. The American alligator is much larger (around fifteen feet) and therefore heavier than the Chinese alligator (around five feet). This is a pretty big difference.
While the American alligator can weigh anywhere from five hundred to a whopping one thousand pounds, the Chinese alligator usually only weighs eighty pounds.
So, how much an alligator weighs really depends on the species.