What Does An Alligator Eat?

What Does An Alligator Eat?
Alligators look like something from a bygone era. Their toothy grin and scaly hide make them look like holdovers from the age of dinosaurs. It’s sometimes hard to imagine just what life is like for these intimidating animals within a modern world.

What, and how much, do alligators eat? Are they a danger to humans? Do they need to eat very often? We’ll examine these questions and more to discover just what life is like for these amazing animals.

The question of what does an alligator eat is easily answered. An alligator will essentially eat any animal it can fit into its mouth. This might seem like a simple and clear cut answer at first. However, it becomes more complicated when we examine just how much variety there is in an alligator’s size.

 

What do baby alligators eat?

What do baby alligators eat?
Alligators begin hunting on their own as soon as they’re born. These hatchings will typically feed on insects, snails, worms and smaller fish. The hatchlings will grow fairly quickly. Every year they’ll usually put on about ten more inches. This means that their diet will scale up to match their new size.

As an alligator grows into young adulthood it will start to eat turtles, larger fish and the smallest mammals. Once an alligator reaches full adult size things will change dramatically.

 

What does the alligator eat?

What does the alligator eat?
An adult alligator is large enough to hunt down almost anything in its immediate environment. Semi-aquatic mammals such as coypu and muskrats make an attractive meal for adult alligators. But they also love to eat larger birds, pigs, goats and even other reptiles.

However, there’s not much an adult alligator won’t eat if given a chance. When an alligator is fully grown he’ll even be able to eat large animals like deer and large livestock. A full grown alligator will even see dangerous predators such as panthers and black bears as a potential meal. Alligators will also eat carrion if they come across it. However, for the most part an alligator will vastly prefer a fresh kill over another predator’s leftovers.

Alligators are usually considered an apex predator within their environment. This means that they will eat almost any other animal. Meanwhile they don’t have to worry about other animals making a meal out of them. Humans are the rare exception to this rule. Alligators will fight back if a human attacks them. But for the most part an alligator will usually be wary around people.

 

How big can an alligator get?

The average American alligator is just over 11 foot (3.35 meters.) long and weighs 790lbs. (360 kg.) for a male.  The female is smaller.

Which is a bit less than half the size of a Killer Whale. To compare the alligator’s length compared to an average Great White Shark, which is about 15 feet. (4.57m.) long. (Give or take for male and female size difference.)

For a bigger adult alligator, it can grow to over 14 feet long. (4.4 meters.). And that same alligator could weigh as much as 990 lbs. (450 kg.)

But a baby alligator can be as small as six inches and 0.12 lbs. As you might expect, an alligator will hunt for very different prey over the course of its growth.

According to Wikipedia, the biggest alligator ever recorded measured 19 foot and 2 inches, ( 5.84 meters.) long. It is estimated to weigh 2,200 lbs. (1,000 kg.) This was not verified by several sources though.

 

How strong is the alligator’s jaws?

An alligator’s jaw has around 2,125 pounds of bite strength per inch. They could quite literally bite through steel if they felt the urge. This means that even natural protection like a turtle’s shell isn’t enough to keep an alligator from his meal.

 

How often does an alligator eat?

The question of what does an alligator eat suggests some related issues. Just how much does an alligator eat? And how often does an alligator eat? The answer will probably come as a surprise to most people.

An alligator’s diet and intimidating appearance usually makes people assume they’re voracious gluttons. But in reality an alligator will typically only eat every five or six days. And even then an adult will usually only eat about six to eight pounds of meat for his one meal.

 

Why do alligators eat so little in comparison to their size?

Most people are shocked by how little an alligator needs to eat. An adult human will typically consume about six times more food in a year than an adult alligator. And this is despite the fact that even a slim adult alligator is larger than the vast majority of humans.

The secret to an alligator’s modest dietary needs is the fact that they’re both cold blooded and not very mobile. An alligator doesn’t do all that much over the course of his day. They lie in wait an ambush their prey. This saves them energy, rather than active hunting through moving all the time. The alligator is the master of ambushing prey. He doesn’t even need to generate his own body heat.

Unlike humans and other mammals an alligator depends on his environment to keep him warm. Ultimately calories are used as a measure of energy. Humans are extremely active and are constantly generating internal body heat. We eat a lot of calories because we’re using a lot of energy even when we’re at rest.

A sleeping human is still burning a lot of calories simply by generating body heat. Meanwhile an alligator depends on environmental energy for warmth. And they typically spend most of their day lazing around in the sun or lying in wait for an unsuspecting meal at the waters edge.

Contrast to humans, alligators are not burning many calories when at rest. The sun is doing most of the work keeping them warm.

 

Putting it all together.

By looking at an alligator’s diet we’ve also seen how they relate to their environment. It’s important to remember that an alligator isn’t the manic eating machine they’re often portrayed as. In reality they’re generally quite sedate. As with any large predatory animal, alligators should be given some distance if encountered in the wild. But for the most part they’re happy to spend most of their time napping in the sun.