Can Alligators Live In Saltwater or Ocean? (The Definitive Guide)

Alligators and crocodiles in general are some of the most feared animals in the world. Crocodilian attacks are common in places where large crocodilians are native and human populations live. The fact that they are hidden under the surface until the very last moment before the attack doesn’t help their reputation.

Although people that live near some rivers and lakes have to live in fear, do people going to ocean or sea beaches have a reason to worry as well?

Can alligators live in saltwater? Being mainly freshwater animals, alligators can be found in rivers, swamps, ponds, and lakes but they can’t live in saltwater as they can’t tolerate saltwater for more than a few hours or days. They simply aren’t equipped for swimming in saline water of the ocean, and for that reason, they don’t live in the world’s oceans. 

Let’s dive in deeper and find out why is that…

Do Alligators Live In Saltwater
Do Alligators Live In Saltwater?

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Why alligators can’t live in saltwater? 

According to experts, alligators can’t live in saltwater because like humans they do not have any salt glands. They can’t tolerate saltwater for a long time because due to lack of salt glands they can’t pump out sodium and other seawater ions concentrated in their body.

Old alligators can tolerate salt water for some time due to their thick skin but it can be hard for young alligators to remain in saltwater even for some time. They can’t resist the pressure of saltwater like human beings. When they live in it for long then the level of salt in their blood will increase and the level of water in their body will decrease. It can cause stress and even death in some cases.

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When do alligators go to saltwater? 

According to ecologists, alligators do not just stick to fresh water when they are hungry. These reptiles are very cunning as they can live easily in salty waters for some time as they can find a lot of food to eat in saltwater like sea turtles and crabs etc. They can also eat at least two species of rays and three species of shark.  

How alligators can survive in saltwater while catching their prey? 

Alligators Eating Saltwater Fish
Alligators Eating Saltwater Fish

According to experts, when alligators go into saltwater in search of food then they have to switch from saltwater to freshwater repeatedly to deal with the salt in the saltwater. Alligators can close their throat with a shield based on certain cartilages and shut their nostrils to keep salt water out while swimming in it in search of their food.

While eating their prey alligators take their head up out of the saltwater to drain it out from their mouth so that they can swallow their prey without taking in a lot of saltwater. They tip their head out of saltwater to catch the showers of rain to gather the layer of fresh rainwater.

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Can you find alligators lurking on sandy beaches? 

According to various reports, alligators were found hanging out in the sandy beaches of Texas as well as in the saltwater in the Mexican gulf and on the beaches of Florida. But such events occur rarely because alligators are basically freshwater animals.

How are alligators different from crocodiles?

Though alligators and crocodiles are scientifically similar, their families are different. Both of them are members of the Crocodylia family but the family of alligators is known as Alligatordae whereas crocodiles are from the Crocodylidae family. Alligators prefer to live in freshwater but crocodiles can live in both freshwater as well as saltwater.

Everglades in Florida is the only place in this world where you can witness the coexistence of both crocodiles and alligators. 

Alligators and crocodiles also differ in their appearances. Alligators have a bit rounded but short snouts whereas the snouts of crocodiles can be pointed and longer.

You can’t see any teeth of an alligator when his mouth is shut but you can see the back teeth of crocodiles stuck up over the upper lip to give a grinning look even if their mouth is shut. The snouts of alligators are stronger than the snouts of crocodiles because they are broader. For this reason, alligators can crush the hard shell of sea turtles. 


Alligators can’t live in saltwater as they prefer to live in freshwater but you can occasionally find them in saltwater to catch food that they’ve acquired a taste for. But they can’t survive in saltwater for long as they do not have salt glands like crocodiles.