American Alligator Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kristina Washington-Morris

Kristina has taught a variety of elementary classes and has a master's degree in elementary education.

Have you ever played near a pond or river and wondered what animals may be lurking below the surface? If you are in the US there may be an American alligator hiding in the murky water. In this lesson we'll explore facts about American alligators.

What Are American Alligators?

American alligators are often shown in movies and television as savage lizard-like animals able to rip their prey to shreds. There are a few reasons why this reptile has such a frightening reputation. Let's explore some facts about the American alligator and find out what makes this such a feared creature.

An American Alligator Soaks in the Sun
American alligator

American alligators are the largest reptile to call North America home. Males are usually 13 to 15 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds! Female American alligators are 8 to 10 feet long. Besides being very large, these alligators have some lethal features. Their backs are covered in hard scales that act like body armor when fighting other animals. The American alligator also has 74-80 sharp teeth in its strong jaws. They don't worry if they lose a tooth, either, because their teeth can grow back. An American alligator may grow 2,000-3,000 teeth in its lifetime!

A Strong Set of American Alligator Teeth

American alligators have small, short legs making them slower on land, but that is not the case in the water. These alligators have strong, flat tails that work like a rubber, swaying oar. They can swim up to 20 miles per hour, making it very difficult for their prey to swim away.

What Do American Alligators Eat?

American alligators are carnivores, which means they eat animals. They use their swimming speed and sharp teeth to eat a variety of animals found in lake or marsh habitats. American alligators will eat fish, turtles, snakes, waterbirds, raccoons, and other small mammals. These alligators will often lurk in the water, looking like a floating log, waiting for an unsuspecting animal to get too close. American alligators eat small animals whole, but this doesn't mean they won't eat larger animals. If they chomp down on a large animal and find it is too big to swallow in one gulp they will violently shake their meal into bite size pieces.

Where Do American Alligators Live?

American alligators are found in some southern American states -- Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Most American alligators live in Louisiana and Florida though. These alligators like to swim in fresh water so they are often found in ponds, rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps.

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