How Long Can Alligators Live (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 30 To 75 Years

Alligators are semi-aquatic, sharp-toothed reptiles belonging to the crocodile family. The name alligator comes from el Lagarto, the Spanish term for the lizard. Hence, early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called it the alligator.

There are just two types of alligators, the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), which only lives in a small area in China, and the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), which lives throughout the southern United States. Although they look almost the same, the Chinese alligator is much smaller and has more bony plates than the American alligator.

An alligator has a life span is as long as a human does. They can live for at least 75 years. In some cases, they may even live up to 100 years. 

How Long Can Alligators Live?

Alligator speciesLife span
Americal alligator over 70 years
Chinese alligator60 years

Unlike crocodiles, alligators are not the longest living reptiles. The life span of an alligator varies according to the species, gender and location. Studies show that alligators in captivity live for at least 10 to 20 years longer than ones in the wild. Additionally, male alligators live longer than female ones. The oldest living male is 85 years old. Meanwhile, the female alligator is only 65 years old. 

Generally, American alligators live longer than Chinese alligators. The average lifespan of an American alligator is over 70 years in captivity and 50 years in the wild. On the other hand, the maximum lifespan of a Chinese alligator is 60 years in captivity. They live for 40 to 50 years in the wild. 

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Overall, an alligator has a life span of 30 to 75 years, depending on the species and gender. Another thing that influences how long alligators live is whether they live in captivity, like in zoos or the wild.

Why Do Alligators Live For So Long?

Alligators have a high mortality rate during the early stages of its life. They remain vulnerable to predators till they reach adulthood. Alligators usually lay 35 to 50 eggs at a time. However, most of these eggs are killed by predators before they get old. Furthermore, up to eight of every ten baby alligators die before becoming an adult. Adult alligators are also a threat to the younger ones.

Once they reach adulthood, they do not have many predators. Hence, they remain alive for several years. 

Another threat to wild alligators is humans. Humans have hunted and harrassed alligators for their hide and habitat for several decades, severely affecting their life span. Just 30 years ago, the American gator (Alligator mississippiensis) was a threatened species, on the brink of endangerment. People saw them as little more than dangerous pests on swampland that could be drained and developed and mercilessly killed several animals.  

Another factor affecting the lifespan of alligators is that they have poor eyesight. Alligators rely on their ears to navigate the waters. These ears detect slight vibrations in the water. However, human activities create a lot of disturbances in the water. This hamper’s the ability of alligators to escape from predators, thus reducing their life span. 

Now, protected by state and federal laws, alligators have regained their population. 

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 Additionally, rising sea levels due to climate change cause contamination of freshwater bodies with saltwater incursion or inundation, which further endangers alligators as they are sensitive to the environment. 

Alligators live for long in captivity since they have no predators or competitors. Moreover, these animals are at peak health due to the availability of quality food and health checkups. Zoos employ doctors to periodically examine them to identify any disease early on, which helps prolong their life span. 

Conclusion

Alligators are semi-aquatic species that live as long as humans. Once they overcome the extreme hardship at the beginning of their life, they can live for 10s of years. 

Human activity is one of the contributions to their decreasing life span. Greed has made humans destroy their habitats and kill them for their hide, which decreases an alligator’s life span. Hence, it is essential to perform activities that do not put any other animal at risk. 

References

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3181/00379727-111-27901
  2. https://digital.library.txstate.edu/handle/10877/13468
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