Once an endangered species, the American alligator– like this one in the Ocala National Forest– now lives in freshwater swamps, marshes, and rivers across much of the southern United States, from North Carolina to Texas. While submerged underwater, the alligator’s ear and nostril flaps close and they activate a specialized third eyelid, known as a nictitating membrane, to safeguard their eyes.  With 74 to 80 conical teeth at the ready, the reptiles are able to take on any aquatic prey that comes their way.  Younger alligators generally start by feeding on shrimp and insects, but move on to snakes, frogs, fish, and mammals as they mature.

Learn more in the Museum’s Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians:

Photo: Phil’s 1stPix (

Reported on February 8th, 2017, this orange alligator was spotted in Hanahan, South Carolina. Much like the alligator of the same color that was photographed in 2011, there are a few causes that could have made this creature the color it appears. Jay Butfiloski, the Department of Natural Resources’ Alligator Program Coordinator, believes that the alligator might be this color because of where it was residing during the colder months. He said “[It] might be iron oxide that has discolored it" after it had been living in a rusty pipe. Others believe it could be because of the high amount of clay deposits in the area. However Butfiloski does not deny that this could be a new color mutation entirely.