Gator toes. Courtesy of Flickr user Tim Pearce.
This is the third of 12 Things You Should Know about Alligators and Everglades Wildlife, a free eBook.
So, just how big are alligators? According to the Everglades National Park website, the largest alligator ever recorded in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches long. The largest alligator ever recorded anywhere was found in the late 1900’s on Marsh Island in Louisiana. This big guy measured an astounding 19 feet 2 inches, and had an estimated 2,200 pounds of body mass!
The average American alligator weighs 200 pounds and measures 7 feet 6 inches long. That’s not automobile-big, but it’s still big enough to command respect!
The tail accounts for half of the alligator’s length. So, on a 12 foot alligator, the tail alone is about as tall as an average man. An alligator’s tail is primarily used for propulsion through the water, but it can also be used as a weapon of defense when the gator feels threatened.
Alligator tail is also a tasty meal for many humans! If you ever order alligator meat in a restaurant, it is typically the meat from the tail that will be served.
The legs of an alligator don’t contribute very much to its size. Alligators have four short, stubby legs, with five toes on both front legs and four webbed toes on the back legs. Although they are small, an alligator’s legs are very muscular and allow an alligator to run quickly for short distances on dry land.