Alligator: Key Facts

Did you know that alligators can grow up to 15 feet long? Or that they have as many as 80 teeth in their mouth at any given time? Or they they can stay underwater for 2 hours or more? Read on to learn more about these and other alligator key facts.

Quick Facts About Alligators

Scientific Name:Alligator Mississippiensis
Alligator Sinensis
Number of Species:2
Physical Description:Large four-legged reptile with a long tail, short legs, a U-shaped snout, and a large mouth filled with conical, pointed teeth. Alligators are typically dark green to almost black in color. Their skin is tough and leathery, and there are rows of bony bumps protruding from their backs and down their tails. 
Distribution:Parts of North, Central and South America; Eastern Asia
Habitat:Warm, tropical and subtropical regions; according to the National Park Service, they prefer freshwater swamps and marshes, but may also live near rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. 
Average Size:– Length: 5 to 15 feet
– Weight: 500 to 1,000 pounds
Average Lifespan:30 to 50 years
Diet:Opportunistic carnivore; may also eat fruit sometimes. Foods include:
– Fish
– Amphibians
– Reptiles
– Birds
– Mammals
– Insects and invertebrates
– Carrion
Largest Species:American Alligator
Smallest Species:Chinese Alligator

What is the Biggest Alligator in the World?

There are currently two species of alligator in the world: The American Alligator and the Chinese alligator. Of these two, American alligators are the larger species, as they can grow up to 15 feet long (Chinese alligators typically grow to about 5 feet in length).

The largest American alligator on record is known as the Stokes Alligator; it was found in Alabama and measured at 15 feet, 9 inches long.

How Long Can an Alligator Live?

Alligators have fairly long lifespans; they live about 30 to 50 years on average. Of course, this is just an average range; some alligators die much earlier in life, while others live much longer. 

Alligators can live to be 80 years old or more. The oldest living alligator, named Muja, began living at the Belgrade Zoo in 1937; no one knows when he was born, but he was at least two years old when he arrived at the zoo.

How Many Teeth Does an Alligator Have?

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, alligators can have anywhere between 74 and 80 teeth in their mouth at once.

An alligator’s teeth get worn down over time; as one tooth wears out, it falls out and is replaced by a new tooth. An alligator may have as many as 3,000 teeth total during its lifetime.


Alligators are water-loving reptiles that live in freshwater marshlands and swamps. They can live to be 50 years old or older and may go through as many as 3,000 teeth in their life. Read also the following two guides about how to survive alligator’s attack – in the water and on land, or this one about hippo vs alligator.

Read also about other forest reptiles – here are our guides about bull snakes, chameleons, copperheads.

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