Alligator Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

The alligator is a kind of freshwater reptile that is only found in two places on Earth. In this lesson, you'll learn about alligators, including where they where they live and what they like to eat.

What is an Alligator?

Imagine you are floating in a boat along a calm river on a warm, sunny day. You see what looks like a log drifting in the water, but you don't think much about it. What you don't notice is that this log has eyes and is looking at you. You had better keep your hands in the boat, because that is no log; it's an alligator!

An alligator is a large reptile with short legs, a long tail, tough skin, sharp teeth and a wide snout. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals that lay eggs and are covered in scales or hard plates.

Alligators are no reptile runts! They can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh about 1,000 pounds! That's almost as much as an adult polar bear!

Alligators are greenish brown or black with light-colored bellies. Their skin is made up of bony shields, like a knight's armor. Despite looking like floating tanks, alligators are incredibly good swimmers. Their tails are very strong, which not only help them paddle, but also whack enemies, like giant fly swatters.

Swimming Alligator
Swimming Alligator

When floating almost completely underwater, alligators can still breathe and see what's going on. This is because their nose holes are on top of their snouts, and their eyes are at the top of their heads. Imagine how long you could stay underwater in a pool if your nose was on top of your head!

Alligator or Crocodile?

It's not hard to tell the difference between an alligator and true crocodile, but you probably want to figure it out at a distance.

Alligator with Wide Snout
Alligator with Wide Snout

Alligators have wider snouts, while true crocodiles have pointier, skinnier snouts. Both have a very large, bottom-fourth tooth. When an alligator's mouth is closed, you can't see that tooth. But when a true crocodile's mouth is closed, it still sticks up and can be seen.

Where do Alligators Live?

There are two kinds of alligators in the world: American and Chinese. The first type is found in the Southeastern United States, while the second type lives in Eastern China. They are also kept in zoos.

Alligators live in freshwater, including rivers, swamps and marshes. Sometimes they dig burrows to rest in if the temperature gets too cold.

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