Alligators are mostly carnivores, these cold-blooded animals are mostly opportunistic lurkers that will eat whatever—yes; whatever- seems to be like a pleasant lunch to them.
Gators have a voracious appetite and will hardly refuse any meal, but these amazing creatures can also say, “see you later, alligator” to food for lengthy periods of time.
In this article, we will see how long can an alligator actually go without a meal in tough times & How can they go without eating for so long.
How Long Can An Alligator Go Without Eating?
Alligators are cold-blooded animals that have a really slow metabolism that allows them to survive and go without eating for months and in extreme situations, even 2-3 years. In fact, fasting is something they do every winter. During chilly weathers gators enter a hibernation-like state called brumation that basically shuts down their entire body and keeps them alive without requiring or wasting energy.
Even if alligators have an open-menu diet, it mainly consists on prey that it is easy to catch such as fish, birds, turtles, snakes and other mammals, along with fruits, dead animals and other reptiles. Gators eat extensive amounts of food, but because of their biological composition, they do not need to eat constantly. In fact, they can easily survive with little or no food at all.
So Can An Alligator Live 2 Years Without Food?
Ideally, alligators can go one whole year without food, but yes, in extreme situations they can starve for up to 2 to 3 years.
Alligators are ectothermic; they have a slow metabolism and can control their heart rate to survive long periods of starvation, freezing and dark conditions. Actually, some scientists believe these superpowers kept these prehistoric reptiles alive during mass extinction at the end of the Cenozoic Era, which most animals, such as dinosaurs, did not survive.
To do so, alligators will reduce their heartbeat to two or three beats per minute, cutting down oxygen supply and therefore slowing their metabolism rates. This will completely reduce energy-waste, keeping them alive even without food. Gators will lose body mass and become extremely skinny, and enter a dormant state, but they are still active and awake.
How Often Do Alligators Actually Eat & Need To Eat
We already mentioned that, like most cold-blooded creatures, alligators have a very slow metabolism rate where feed regularly is not essential. During spring and summer, because they are not big fans of frosty weather, an adult alligator can eat up to 17 kg of food in a meal and they usually eat just once a week. Gators will make no more than 50 meals per year.
Any extra calories will be stored at the base of their tail between inner and external muscles, so a long tail usually signifies a healthy and well-fed reptile.
Alligators hunt mostly at night and contrary to popular belief, they do not actually hunt for food; alligators lurk for food in the shadows, waiting patiently for easy prey to approach and quickly attack them.
Besides brilliant sight and smell, gators posses sensitive skin sensors that can help them identify vibrations (movement) and detect possible prey. Even if they have a very strong bite (imagine a “pickup truck crushing you” strong) they use their jaws to break down chunks of food and eventually swallow the entire piece.
How Long Can A Baby Alligator Go Without Eating?
During the first two weeks, newborn alligators are most likely to feed from their eggs’ leftover yolk, afterwards they will hunt for their own food and just like an adult one, they will eat whatever seems like a good dinner. Of course, baby gators will lurk for food that is a reasonable size for their mouths, which is already equipped with 60 teeth to feed on insects, fish, small birds, amphibians and other invertebrates.
Hatchlings can survive up to 58 days with no food, and three to four months eating tiny meals, especially during the winter. However, hatchlings need 50% of their food for bodybuilding and proper development, so their mothers will take care of their babies for their first years and provide them with the resources they need, even if they have to starve themselves in extreme situations.
Young gators can eat up to 23% of their body weight in just one sitting and require feeding at least 3 times a week.
How Long Can An Alligator Live Without Drinking?
Gators can live a few days, even weeks, without drinking water as long as they are in a cool/fresh site or shady habitat. But alligators would not survive more than a few days exposed directly to the sunlight without being inside the water. Since they use water to cool down their body temperature, overheating could kill them or provoke severe sunburn wounds.
Why Can An Alligator Go For Extremely Long Periods Without Eating
The main reason is because they are cold-blooded animals. This means they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own; therefore, they depend on external sources to warm up or cool down.
Warm-blooded creatures require constant feeding because they convert up to 80% of the food they eat into energy to keep their bodies warm. Since cold-blooded animals cannot do that, their metabolism rate is very slow and do not need to feed regularly. Their metabolism digests food slowly and will store over 60% of the food they eat and use that energy to survive in the future, whenever it is needed.
Besides cold blood being their superpower, alligators can also slow their heart rate and reduce the blood supply by submerging in water and increase them by rising. This allows them to control their metabolic rate and reduce the energy waste in times of crisis.
Do Alligators Eat In The Winter?
All cold-blooded animals depend on the environment to regulate their body temperature from cold to warm–that is why they spend so much time sunbathing on the rocks or submerged in water. As winter approaches, alligators have to prepare themselves to survive and unlike mammals, food is not one of their priorities.
Towards November and until late February, gators dig mud burrows on the side of water banks to bromate in them. So, the quick answer is no, they do not require food, but that does not mean they are not active.
Brumation is the reptile-equivalent of hibernation and it consists on basically putting their body on airplane mode by shutting down their metabolism, slowing their heart rate and dropping their body temperature. Alligators will then stay active just for basic and bare necessities such as breathing and drinking water. Since they waste so little energy, months can pass without them needing any food, however since they are not asleep, they could eat whenever they wanted too.
How Long Does It Take An Alligator To Digest Food
Alligators have an amazing and unusual digestive system. These reptiles have a four-chambered heart that allows them to pump blood through a second aorta directly into the stomach and digestive system–instead of passing through the lungs, like most animals- where carbon dioxide is converted into a strong gastric acid with a pH of less than 2, which is considered corrosive.
Even with this boost of gastric juices, digestion can take two to three days for soft meat, and over twenty days to digest the enormous amounts of meat, carcasses and bones they consume.
Alligators cold-blooded nature does not allow them to sustain the ideal body temperature required for digestion, so they need to produce almost 10 times gastric acids than any other animal in order to digest the whole prey as fast as they can, otherwise they could rot in their gut and be lethal to the creature.
Do Crocodiles Only Eat Once A Year?
If they needed to, crocodiles could survive of one meal per year, but crocodiles are not likely to do so. As opportunistic feeders, crocodiles will consume large amounts of whatever food they find. They are capable of eating up to 50 pounds in just one sitting!
How Long Can An Alligator Gar Go Without Eating?
It is important to state that alligator gars have no relationship to alligators. However, this fresh-water fish can actually survive for a few days without eating, but will probably devour food as soon as they get some.