Did You Know?  Well Dija?

Alligators Part Two

Locomotion on Land and in the Water

In the water 

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Alligators appear to be the un-rivaled experts at water ballet.  The "S" shape movements of their tail propel them easily through the water.  During this display, their legs are folded behind them to reduce drag.

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Alligators cruise through the water by keeping their legs tucked in close to the body.

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Tail Walk.  Alligators can jump up out of the water looking like a dolphin. 

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When an alligator "hangs out" in the water, his head, actually his nostrils and eyes will just be breaking the surface of the water.  His legs will be out stretched below him in a relaxed fashion. This helps him stay stabilized.    Alligators in this situation have stored air in their lungs to give them a little extra buoyancy.

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When an alligator is at rest in the water, they may sometimes have the middle of the tail slightly arched.  Some humans believe that is a sign of a content alligator.

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Alligators can walk along the bottom of a body of water.  They float along the bottom by slowly moving their legs.  Sometimes they kick up a little mud or silt from the bottom.

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Alligators like calm water.  If the water gets a little rough they may come ashore or find a protected area.  The alligators find swimming in this situation uncomfortable.

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You can tell when an alligator is in a hurry.  You will see him with his legs tucked back against his body and his tail moving rapidly in an "S" motion.  Sometimes an alligator can leave what appears to be a small wake behind him.

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When an alligator dives- he exhales air and submerges below the surface. 

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Alligators have built in swimming goggles called "nictitating membranes". 

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The tail of the alligator is very powerful.  The alligator can pick up speed very quickly with the use of his tail.

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The alligator steers himself by merely pointing his head in the direction he wants to go.  The body and tail are used to change direction.

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You cannot out swim an alligator.  Fortunately, alligators do not find humans tasty.

 
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On Land 

 
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Alligators are not as agile on land as they are in the water.  The water is an alligators true home. 

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High Walk.  This happens when the alligator lifts his entire body trunk and part of his tail when he walks.  They can't go too fast or too far like this.  They will high walk to avoid scraping their belly on rocks or even to step over another alligator.  By the way, this is a unique trait among reptiles.  All crockodilians can do this.

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High speed - the limbs are thrown further out from the body and the trunk is still clear of the ground.  This is more along the order of a dash that is for short distances.

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The belly crawl is a fright response.  They will usually slide from the muddy bank into the water.  Christopher Columbus described this response in 1492 in the Bahamas.  He stated that he "went in hot pursuit of a serpent that threw itself into a lake".  (Alligators were a new phenomenon to the early explorers)

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Alligators "wiggle" their hips when they walk.

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Alligators can lunge forward very quickly.  They can also leap up.  So, beware when approaching an alligator on land.  They can out run you for short distances. 

 

Interesting Alligator Story

This story is from an article that appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in the 1850's.  Here is a summary.

A Miss Nel Gary went before one of the Recorders of New Orleans and made oath that one Ernest Dalfin, a neighbor of hers kept in his yard an alligator of immense size and ferocity; and that as she was frequently obliged to go through the yard, she considered herself in great bodily fear and danger; wherefore she prayed that her neighbor remove the alligator to some other quarters.  On this charge, Dalfin was arrested.  When required to plead, he stated that he kept the alligator to guard his premises from intrusion and that his guardian was except when imposed on as quietly disposed a reptile as ever lived.   As for the prosecutor, he contended that she was brazenly inclined, and kept constantly exciting the alligator's ire by tickling him under his short ribs with ten foot poles and casting brickbats at his countenance and on one occasion even went so far as to singe his back with a hot smoothing-iron since which time his alligatorship swings his tail at her whenever he sees her.  On this showing, Ernest was discharged; but Ellen was bound over to keep the peace toward "the pet" and its excellent owner.

Check out more alligator pictures.

Even more cool alligator pictures