Alligators, like their famous cousins the crocodiles, are cold-blooded carnivores. While they both feed similarly, you may find a few notable differences in their diet.
What does an alligator eat?
Alligators are carnivorous. Their diet mainly consists of animal matter, and they go after the easiest prey available. Alligators are opportunistic feeders, so they feast on a wide range of animals. Some of the animals they prey on include small fishes, amphibians, small mammals, snakes, and birds.
There’s more to know about the diet of an alligator. In this article, we will answer some questions to shed more light on what alligators eat.
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What Does an Alligator Eat?
Alligators typically eat animals that are easy for them to kill. Like crocodiles, they are opportunistic feeders, so they would eat almost anything as long as they can kill it. But unlike crocodiles, alligators do not usually attack humans.
Alligators are carnivorous, so as expected, they eat animals. In choosing their prey, they consider the size. Alligators do not usually go after animals that are bigger than them. But if the chance shows up, they will take it.
Juvenile alligators eat smaller animals like small fishes, insects, snails, worms, mice, crawfish, and many other invertebrates. Older alligators will eat snakes, turtles, birds, bobcats, raccoons, and even smaller alligators.
The jaw of an alligator is very strong. So, even the shell of a turtle would not save it from being eaten.
Occasionally, you may also find alligators eating seeds and fruits. Some of the fruits they eat include apples, wild grapes, oranges, limes, lemons, pears, and even corn they find strewn on the ground.
Do Alligators Eat Fresh Kills?
Alligators eat fresh kills. But sometimes, they also store their kills and eat them later. This is especially common in cases where the dead prey cannot be swallowed at once.
Usually, alligators go after small prey, which they kill and eat in one bite. But in some cases, they kill larger prey animals. Since they cannot eat them in one bite, they drag them underwater and store them.
What Types of Animals Do Alligators Eat?
Alligators are not partial to one type of prey. There is perhaps no type of animal they cannot eat. As long as an animal is accessible to them and the conditions are right, they are opportunistic feeders who will eat what is available to them.
Alligators can eat turtles. While turtles might have some protection from their shells, it is usually not enough to save them from the powerful jaws of an alligator.
An American Alligator has been recorded to have a bite force of up to 2,980 psi. You can imagine why a turtle shell would crack when crushed by an alligator’s jaw.
In an unusual turn of events, turtles and alligators can also be friends. You will find that they cohabit, and sometimes, turtles even ride on the back of alligators. This association is called phoresy.
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Alligators do not usually set out to hunt, kill, or eat humans. In fact, it is unusual for alligators to attack humans.
But this is not to say that they cannot attack humans. In cases where an alligator is very hungry, they may eat humans.
Also, if a person infiltrates the territory of an alligator, the alligator might attack. More times than not, even when they attack, they will not eat humans. Even if the human dies from the attack, an alligator would most likely not eat the body.
Alligators might be apex predators, but one animal they would not want to rile up is a hippo. Alligators might be able to attack and eat hippo calves. But they dare not go after adult hippos.
In cases when adult hippos sense that an alligator is posing a threat to their territory, they would attack it, and they may kill it.
In fact, an alligator might only get the chance to attack a hippo calf when it is isolated or deserted.
Also, considering the size of hippos and their calves, alligators would usually not try to eat them.
Alligators can eat pythons. One such occurrence was seen when an alligator ate an invasive Burmese python in Everglades National Park, Florida.
Although alligators can eat pythons, size is a vital factor in their relationship. Smaller alligators are more likely to fall prey to pythons. So, you most likely would not find them eating pythons.
But larger alligators have a better chance at feasting on the larger slithery reptiles.
Alligators can eat sharks. But as with most of their other prey animals, size matters. Alligators can eat small sharks – those that can fit between their jaws easily.
What Do Alligators in the Everglades Eat?
The Everglades is home to around 200,000 alligators.
Adult alligators in the Everglades eat various aquatic animals, birds, snakes, and small mammals such as nutrias, raccoons, and muskrats.
Like other alligators, they do not usually go after animals bigger than them.
Younger alligators prey on worms, snails, frogs, crabs, and other similar animals. Alligators in the Everglades may also eat fruits if available.
How Often Do Alligators Need to Eat?
Since alligators are cold-blooded animals, they do not have to eat frequently. They generate less internal heat, so their energy requirement is low.
Alligators can survive by eating 1-3 times a week. They store any surplus calories they get from their meals in fat deposits in the base of their tails.
In uncommon cases, alligators can survive on their fat reserves for up to 2 years.
Alligators are apex predators. They are carnivorous, opportunistic feeders and will eat almost any animal accessible to them.
More times than not, they only eat animals smaller than them. Besides eating animals, alligators also eat fruits when available.