ALLIGATOR BEHAVIOR page 6h: ON LAND; WALKING CYCLES  
This page was born 06/20/2016.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 7/03/2016
Images and contents on this page copyright  2016 Richard M. Dashnau   

I never tire of seeing an alligator walking on land. The way an alligator walks on land has been defined as a "slow trot". That may sound confusing. 
A "trot" is one way that a tetrapod (4-footed animal) can move on land. A trot is defined as moving with legs in diagonal pairs--that is, a front leg
and the back leg of the opposite side move forward together. In a faster animal-like a dog-this is usually accompanied by the animal leaving the ground
briefly as demonstrated in this animated gif of my dog, Piper, trotting. Compare how her opposite-side legs move with those of the alligators below.

Alligator or crocodylian walking physiology has been studied many times. I've gotten some information from two of these studies. One of them is "LOCOMOTION IN ALLIGATOR MISSISSIPPIENSIS: KINEMATIC EFFECTS OF SPEED AND POSTURE AND THEIR RELEVANCE TO THE SPRAWLING-TO-ERECT PARADIGM", by Stephen M. Reilly* AND Jason A. Elias.  I've referred to this in 2009 on another of my pages here
Samples in this study show that alligators normally use a high walk to move longer distances, while they'll use the "sprawling" posture for short distances.(p 2568) When I watched the alligator with the deer carcass, it attempted to high walk 
first, but kept stepping on the carcass. Finally, it started shoving the carcass, starting
with a sprawling crawl, and pushing the carcass in front of it. This prevented the carcass from getting under the alligator. The alligator then tried to lift its
body higher, while still pushing the carcass. More of this incident can be seen on another of my pages here.
This study states that alligators prefer the high walk in a "walking trot gait" to move over land. In the study, a "trot" is defined as "using coordinated footfalls of diagonal limb couplets". That is, front leg and opposite side back leg
move forward at the same time (p. 2562).  Also, alligators use a "trot" whether they high walk, or low sprawl.
Also, the "low sprawl" walk in alligators does not work like the sprawling gait of salamanders or lizards. It is more like the alligator's high walk, but just in a lower profile.
(p 2571) .  

   
                            07/03/2011                                                                 07/17/2011                                                                    08/14/2011                                                          06/02/2013

---
                              05/25/2014                                                                04/19/2015                                                                 03/15/2015                                                               04/19/2015                             

Another study is "The tale of the tail: limb function and locomotor mechanics in Alligator mississippiensis" by, Jeffrey S. Willey1,*, Audrone R. Biknevicius2,†, Stephen M. Reilly1 and Kathleen D. Earls2
Observations in this study include:
While an alligator is walking it has to drag its tail, which is about 28 percent of its body mass.(p. 553)(p. 560)
While an alligator is walking about 16% of the forelimb and 19% of the hindlimb lift force is pushing to the side.
During a high walk, the diagonal limbs (those touching the ground at any time) support 36.8% (front leg) and 51.3%(back leg) of the alligator's weight. The
remaining 11.8% is supported by the tail.(p 557)
Any side-to-side movements made by the alligator as it walks may help recover about 7% of the energy it expends by lifting its body and dragging its tail. (p.562)

I'v seen at least one other study that indicates that the osteoderms in an alligator's back (each bump on the back of an alligator is covering a disk-shaped bone, called an osteoderm) helps keep the back rigid-especially during the high walk. The 
osteoderms form a support surface, working with connective tissue and the skeleton, to stop the back from sinking in the middle, and also to stop it from bending side-to-side too much.

These animated gifs are examples of alligators walking on land at the park.  I never get tired of seeing this (and I also have video clips...I've been lucky enough to see this many times).  The better animated gifs above were made from photos shot at
30 frames per second. These animated gifs illustrate the look of the high walk. The sequence with the deer is included because of the way the alligator pushed the deer across the trail, illustrating the "sprawling trot".  I think that looking
at the single frames one after another helps show the slight up-and-down shift, and also the forward "pull" of the tail with the back legs.  This trot is what makes an alligator track easily-recognizable. The image below shows an alligator track.
The drag mark from the tail is clearly-visible.  It's possible to see the back foot (with 4 toes) right next to and behind the front foot (smaller, with 5 toes). The animated gif next shows a single step highlighted.

                                                                       

 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.

   Crocodilian.com

    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 INTERACTIONCONFLICT AND CANNIBALISMFEEDINGBABY ALLIGATORSALLIGATOR DENSALLIGATORS ON LANDFOSSIL CROCS
SIGNALS 1CONFLICT 1FEEDING 1BABIES 1DENS 1ON LAND 1FOSSILS 1
SIGNALS 2CONFLICT 2FEEDING 2BABIES 2ON LAND 2
SIGNALS 3CONFLICT 3FEEDING 3BABIES 3ON LAND 3
SIGNALS 4FEEDING 4BABIES 4ON LAND 4
SIGNALS 5FEEDING 5BABIES 5ON LAND 5
SIGNALS 6FEEDING 6BABIES 6ON LAND 6
SIGNALS 7
ON LAND 7
SIGNALS 8

And, this page shows alligators at the park, on land, near various landmarks at the park.

           Go back to my main alligator page, Alligators

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