A swamp park in North Carolina posted a video showing how alligators freeze themselves in place to survive conditions too cold to function.
The video shows how these reptiles don’t fight the cold, they stick their snouts out of a swamp at just the right moment, and let the water freeze around them, letting their bodies freeze into the swamp ice.
These alligators live at The Shallotte River Swamp Park in North Carolina. The park is home to a total of 12 alligators, and 10 of them stay in the swamp.
“They are one of the only species in existence that is virtually unchanged. And they continue to be good at just surviving. This is just another example of how tough they are,” said the park’s general manager George Howard, via The Washington Post.
According to the South Carolina Aquarium, alligators slow their physiological processes down in colder weather and become lethargic, as if in suspended animation. The park wrote via their Facebook page that the alligators remain in this dormant-like state until the ice melts. It’s called brumation and emerges among reptiles when temperatures get too cold for their bodies to handle.
Brumation is a little bit different from the hibernation that mammals do. In brumation, reptiles are not truly asleep like a hibernating mammal. Also, reptiles still need water. There may also be briefs periods of activity, like alligators that emerge to bask, according to the South Carolina Aquarium.
Alligators cannot eat during brumation because of the energy expenditure. The slower metabolism during brumation makes it impossible. Howard told NTD that alligators can go a year without eating if necessary.
Although the swamp unfroze as temperatures rose, it doesn’t mean it’s at the temperature where these alligators can function normally.
“They will stay in partial brumation until ambient temp reach about mid 70s. 80 for them is optimal. They will come out into the sun now but very lethargic,” Howard told NTD.
American Alligators like these are abundant in the United States. They primarily live in the southeast. Their abundance is the result of a successful conservation project. In 1967, they were protected as an endangered species. Hunting them was outlawed, and then poaching was curtailed by changes in laws regulating trade in alligator hides, according to the National Park Service. Their population re-emerged with the help of alligator farms.
The location of the Shallotte River Swamp Park is just about at the top of their habitat range, due to the environmental and temperature conditions.
“North Carolina is the farthest north that indigenous alligators live. Whether or not a person takes one more north and survives, I do not know. I have heard tale,” Howard told NTD.
In Florida, American alligators live alongside American crocodiles, their endangered cousins, according to the National Park Service. Together, they are the only members of the crocodilian family of large reptiles native to the United States.
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