Alligators, although they are ectothermic and also equipped with a small brain, exhibit a surprising diversity in their responses to their environment and to each other. They are for more complex than mere animated logs or 12-foot-long eating machines. This group of pages show some of what I've been able to see in just two years (starting September of 2001) at Brazos Bend State Park.
gotten close to 80 degrees over the last few days. This morning, as I was
walking down the Spillway Trail (I was hoping to see an otter again), I
heard alligator bellowing in the direction of Elm Lake. I walked over there,
and sure enough, alligators were bellowing. LOTS of alligators were bellowing,
all over the lake! I moved towards New Horseshoe Lake, looking towards
the noises I heard. Unfortunately most of the alligators were near the
center of the lake, and on the other side of the islands. So, I didn't
see many of them. The image below left (WINTER BELLOW) shows one of them
I did see, out near one of the islands. While I stood and listened, the
alligators would bellow into a large chorus; then only a few would bellow
off in the distance. Then, more would join in again. The alligators continued
bellowing for a little over an hour. It was terrific! Later I heard
that alligators had been bellowing in 40 Acre, and Pilant, Lakes.
When I'd walked by them earlier, it was still foggy, and I saw only one
Usually, we don't hear bellowing like this unless it's mating season. The unseasonably warm weather probably had something to do with it. Something like this happened last year, also. At that time, one of the Park Naturalists suggested that the alligators-energized by the warmth-were possibly claiming their den areas where they'd be spending the winter. I haven't been able to verify this.
-----WINTER BELLOW--------------- --------COOL GATOR CLOSER
12/03/2006--We've had a cold front or two move through our area. The temperature has dropped to around 30 degrees for some evenings. Sunday morning, December 3rd, was pretty chilly. The sky was clear, with bright sunlight--but the air was cold. The water was also cold (but not frozen). Even so, I was able to see two alligators in 40 Acre Lake as I was heading back to the Visitor/Nature Center. The image above right (COOL GATOR) shows one that was close to the shore, but not close to coming out to bask. Look how clear the water is! The image below is a closer view of the same alligator.
I passed this one, and saw another alligator further out. That one slowly submerged and sank. I saw it standing on the bottom as I passed. With the deep water so clear, this was a good illustration of how the alligators deal with a cold front coming through. Alligators can hold their breath for somewhere around 1 to 6 hours (depending on what you read). When a cold front comes through, the air is the coldest environment. Therefore, air, and the surfaces contacting the air are the most frigid. This means that areas that are not exposed to the air will be at least a bit warmer--depending on how long this cold spell lasts. The bottom of the lakes will be less frigid than the surface. Alligators will seek out deeper water, or dens they've dug, or even dig into mud to get away from the cold air.
These alligators were avoiding the worst cold while lying on the bottom. After long invervals of rest, they can come to the surface for air, and they can also test the temperature by exposing their head. An alligator could also find the amount of radiant heat available on the exposed surfaces of its head when the sun shines on it.
25, 2007-- I watched an alligator (about 6
feet long) as it moved near the bank at 40 Acre Lake. It looked like it
was going to bellow, it even opened its mouth, but then stopped posturing
and started leisurely hunting. It was going after schools of very small
fish that were appearing at the surface. Meanwhile, a larger alligator
began hunting nearby, and it eventually moved towards the smaller alligator.
Finally, the smaller gator submerged, probably to hunt a school of fish
which the larger alligator also noticed. While the smaller was submerged,
the larger swam at the surface, and then went for the school (see FISH!
GULP!, below left). There was a slight disturbance, and then the smaller
gator slowly retreated.
It eventually walked ashore (see I'M GETTIN' OUTTA HERE, below), and laid down to bask. Soon after, the larger alligator also walked onto the bank (see SAVE ME A SPOT, below). This was very close to the Observation Tower.
Somewhere off in Pilant Slough, an alligator started bellowing. The larger alligator returned to the water, moved closer to the tower, and then began to bellow. (see WATERDANCE STAGES, below). I was about 12 feet away. The battery on my video camera was dead, so no video while I shot the photos.
------- --FISH! GULP!- ------ ---- I'M GETTIN' OUTTA HERE--- -------SAVE ME A SPOT
WATERDANCE STAGE 1- ---WATERDANCE STAGE 2-- ------WATERDANCE STAGE 3
I hadn't been at BBSP long. I walked downhill to 40-Acre lake (like I've been doing lately), and then stopped to look at the alligator nest on the first
island. We had some alligator eggs from another nest in the Visitor's center, and they hatched last Friday.
So, I was looking for evidence that the island nest had hatched. Even with my "bare eyes" I could see alligator egg shells scattered on the island. I looked through
binoculars, but couldn't see baby alligators, although I thought I could see the mother's head in the water. (see OPENED NEST, and OPENED EGGS, below left)
--OPENED ALLIGATOR NEST OPENED EGGS ON ISLAND GATOR WITH DEAD GATOR
HE'S NOTICED ME HEAD LIFT BEFORE GROWL
I turned, and right behind me, on the other side of the trail, I saw the
rotted carcass of an alligator--in the jaws of a live alligator. The live
one was about 10 feet long, the dead one was only a partial carcass, so
I couldn't guess how big it was. This was in Pilant lake. I walked past,
and tried to get some pictures. As I did, the alligator reared up a bit,
and then did a short growl/bellow. Too bad I wasn't videotaping, but I
did get a couple photos. (see DEAD GATOR, NOTICE ME, HEAD LIFT above) This
was interesting, because this is just the second time I'd seen an alligator
growl near the volume and length of a bellow...as a warning. Just a week
before, I saw it myself for the first time, when an alligator on the trail
made the same sound when some people passed by. That noise certainly gets
your attention, and if you hear it, it's certainly a good idea to back
The female by the island started bellowing in answer to the male. Then the male in front of me spat out his carcass, and he started bellowing. I videotaped some of that. The female bellowed a few more times, but I kept watch on the male...since it was right next to me--you know, within walking distance. I heard other alligators bellowing further away at the same time.
The big male stopped bellowing, and I tried to swing the camera around to catch the female bellowing. Unfortunately, she stopped as I was focusing on her.
Then things quieted down. (see WITH CARCASS, BELLOWS ON ISLAND, below)
BELLOW WITH CARCASS FEMALE BELLOWS ON ISLAND BELLOWING FEMALE CLOSER
BELLOW VIDEO wmv 2.6mb FEMALE ENDS BELLOW wmv 5.6mb
in the afternoon, as I was returning, I checked on the nest again, and
this time I could see the babies through binoculars, but there were too
they weren't clear enough-for me to count. 15--20? I tried to shoot photos and a little video (see NEST WITH BABIES, above). In the video clip, the mother alligator is near the base of the tree to the right of the image frame.
If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:
Brazos Bend State Park The main page.
Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page The volunteer's main page.
Here are a few links to more information on alligators. There's a LOT of it out there.
Adam Britton's Pages 1
Adam Britton's Pages 2
Fish and Wildlife Page (Text)
Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species
Here are my "alligator behavior" pages:
|SOCIAL INTERACTION||CONFLICT AND CANNIBALISM||FEEDING||BABY ALLIGATORS||ALLIGATOR DENS||ALLIGATORS ON LAND||FOSSIL CROCS|
|SIGNALS 1||CONFLICT 1||FEEDING 1||BABIES 1||DENS 1||ON LAND 1||FOSSILS 1|
|SIGNALS 2||CONFLICT 2||FEEDING 2||BABIES 2||ON LAND 2|
|SIGNALS 3||CONFLICT 3||FEEDING 3||BABIES 3||ON LAND 3|
|SIGNALS 4||FEEDING 4||BABIES 4||ON LAND 4|
|SIGNALS 5||FEEDING 5||BABIES 5||ON LAND 5|
|SIGNALS 6||FEEDING 6||BABIES 6||ON LAND 6|
|SIGNALS 7||ON LAND 7|
And, this page shows alligators at the park, on land, near various landmarks at the park.
Go back to my main alligator page, Alligators
Go back to my home page, Welcome
Go back to the See the World page.