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American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis


  • Southeast United States


  • Freshwater swamps, marshes, lakes and slow-moving rivers


  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Turtles
  • Snakes
  • Amphibians
  • Mammals

American alligators are predators with many special adaptations for hunting in dark waters:

  • Built-in goggles: They see underwater by closing their clear, third eyelid (called a nictitating membrane) that acts like a built-in goggle.
  • Submarine periscope: They have eyes and nostrils on the top of their heads so that the rest of their body can be hiding underwater like a submarine using its periscope.
  • Gator skin: They have a tough hide, formed of hundreds of scales, with bony plates (called osteoderms) actually embedded in the skin. Alligators are literally armor plated!

To see more of the American Alligator’s adaptations, visit them in the WildLIFE Trek Water Building.

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