Are Alligators Nocturnal? (Can they see in the dark?)

Alligators are very interesting creatures and there is so much to learn about them. Dive in for some interesting facts about alligators. 

Are alligators nocturnal? Alligators are both nocturnal and diurnal, which means that they are active during the day and night. And since alligators are partly nocturnal, they have an “eyeshine”.

What is an alligator’s “eye shine”

Alligators, and other nocturnal vertebrates, have a layer of cells beneath the rods and cones in their eyes. This layer of cells, called the tapetum lucidum, reflects light back into the eyes to increase the amount of light that is detected. This causes the alligator’s vision to improve in the night. The eyeshine of alligators is a red color, but other nocturnal creatures have different color eyeshine.  

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What does nocturnal mean? 

Nocturnal means being active during the night. When an animal is nocturnal, that means that they do things like hunt during the night and rest during the day. Some animals that are nocturnal are bats, owls, leopards, coyotes, tigers, and raccoons.  

What does diurnal mean? 

Diurnal is the opposite of nocturnal – it means being active during the day and inactive at night. Some animals that are diurnal are squirrels, elephants, dogs, penguins, and humans.  

Do alligators hibernate?  

Alligators do not hibernate, but they will undergo times of dormancy when it becomes cold. Alligators will dig “gator holes” along the water, and they will go in there and rest when it gets too cold. Once an alligator is done with its gator hole, many other small animals use it as a burrow and a means of protection.  

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Are male or female alligators bigger? 

Male alligators are bigger than female alligators. Male alligators are usually about 11 feet long, where females are usually only about 8 feet long. Very large and older males can even grow to be over 15 feet long and weigh about 1,000 pounds. 

How are baby alligators taken care of? 

Baby Alligator
Baby Alligator

Female alligators are devoted moms to their young. Females will build a nest made up of sticks, leaves, and other vegetation. They build these nests near water and will also add mud to it to make it strong. As the vegetation in the nest decays, it heats up, which helps to keep the eggs nice and warm. Mother alligators will stay by their nest for the entire 65 day incubation period to make sure that the eggs stay safe. 

When a baby alligator is ready to break out of its eggshell, they will make a high pitched noise and the mother alligator will start digging them out of the nest and bring them to the water, gently holding them in her jaws.  

These little baby alligators are only about 6 to 8 inches long, which makes them very vulnerable. Their mother will protect them from predators such as raccoons, birds, bobcats, and other alligators. These little alligators will stay with their mother for about 2 years, which is when they are able to take care of themselves.  

Another fun fact about baby alligators is that their gender is determined by temperature. Alligator eggs that are exposed to temperatures of above 93 degrees Fahrenheit will become males, while eggs that are exposed to temperatures around 86 degrees Fahrenheit will become females. Temperatures in between can go either way in the way of gender.  

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Are alligators endangered? 

At one point, the American alligator faced extinction. These alligators went on the endangered species list in 1967 and they became a protected species. 20 years later, they were able to be removed from the endangered species list – and today there are over a million American alligators thriving in the wild.  

How fast can alligators swim? 

Alligators may seem to be calm and sluggish, but in reality, they are actually pretty fast! Alligators can swim at speeds of 20 miles per hour, which is faster than the swimming speed of a bottlenose dolphin.

Alligators are even faster on land. A running alligator can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, although they will tire quickly when running. That is faster than humans – the fastest runner in the world, Usain Bolt, had his best speed of just shy of 30 miles per hour. But most people can only run at speeds of about 11 miles per hour.  

On top of being fast runners, alligators can also jump five feet in the air and they can climb things like ladders, staircases, fences, and trees.