The name alligator is from the Spanish el lagarto ("the lizard"), the name the early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator. There are two living alligator species: the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis). An average American alligator's weight and length is 800 lbs. and 13 feet long. According to the Everglades National Park website, the largest alligator ever recorded in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches long (5.3 meters). The largest alligator ever recorded measured 19 feet 2 inches (5.8 meters) and was found on Marsh Island, Louisiana. Few of the giant specimens were weighed, but the larger ones could have exceeded a ton in weight. The Chinese Alligator is smaller, rarely exceeding 7 feet (2 meters) in length. An alligator's lifespan is usually estimated in the range of 50 years or more. Alligators are reptiles and lay eggs to have their babies.
Alligators live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps. They occasionally live in brackish water. The only 2 countries in the world where alligators are found are the U.S. and China. American Alligators live in freshwater environments, such as ponds, marshes, wetlands, rivers, and swamps, as well as brackish environments. The Chinese alligator is endangered and lives only in the Yangtze River valley. There are only estimated to be a couple of dozen left in the wild. There are many more of these alligators in zoos around the world than in the wild.
How Alligators are different from Crocodiles:
While alligators are often confused with crocodiles, they are as different from one another as humans are from gorillas. Alligators mainly differ from crocodiles by having wider and shorter heads and in having the toes of the hind feet webbed not more than half way to the tips. Also, alligators preferring fresh water, while crocodiles can tolerate salt water due to specialized glands for filtering out salt. Also, crocodiles tend to be more dangerous to humans than alligators. Alligators have U-shaped heads, while crocodiles are V-shaped. Crocodiles have a longer narrower snout, with eyes further forward. Only the upper teeth are visible when an alligator's mouth is closed, while a crocodile's mouth will reveal both upper and lower teeth. Crocodiles' jaws are more narrow and are used to tear and grip on prey, while alligators' jaws are meant to crush bones.