The largest reptile in North America, the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), inhabits the freshwater wetlands of the southeastern United States. Once listed as endangered, the species has made a jaw-some rebound in recent years. Despite their reputation as large and in charge, adorable alligator babies hatch from their eggs measuring just 8–9 inches. Over the course of a lifetime, they grow 2–12 inches annually, with rates slowing as they age.
Their lifespans are similar to humans — around 70 years. But some individuals have surpassed 100. Do the math, and there’s potential for some mighty massive lizards! Males can easily reach 8–10 feet or more. Females are just a bit smaller. But nature makes room for some incredible exceptions, as the waters of Mississippi and Florida recently revealed.
Mississippi Clinches a New Record for the Longest Gator
Donald Woods, Will Thomas, Tanner White, and Joey Clark stumbled upon an incredible find near Yazoo City, Mississippi, in late August: the longest alligator ever recorded in the state’s history!
Discovered on August 26, the massive male weighed in at an impressive 802.5 pounds. But it was the reptile’s incredible length that made news — he came in at a whopping 14 feet 3 inches long!
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That said, the Mississippi find still has nothing on the largest American alligator ever captured in the U.S. That record remains with a 15-foot-9-inch-long, 1,011-pound gator from Alabama found in 2014. Later ‘gator when it comes to that unmatched record!
Florida Follows Suit With a Scaly Scale-Tipper
Not to be outdone, news emerged from Central Florida at the beginning of September about an alligator of extraordinary size. Captured by Kevin Brotz, a guide and charter boat captain, it has proven to be the find of a lifetime.
Ironically, Brotz wasn’t working on the day he uncovered the behemoth. Instead, he was out for fun with two friends, Carson Gore and Darren Field, when he spotted a lizard that dwarfed all expectations. Field recalls, “When we saw this gator, it was way bigger than anything we’ve ever caught before… Not every day you get a giant dinosaur.”
All told, the male weighed a hefty 920 pounds and measured 13 feet 3¼ inches long! Shockingly, it’s only the second-heaviest alligator captured in Florida history. The first-place record remains untouched — a mind-boggling 1,043 pounds! Yet, this new discovery in the Sunshine State still gives the Mississippi gator a run for its money, at least when it comes to heft.
Where to Dive into More Gator Discoveries
Are you ready to find out more about the American alligator? And maybe its southeastern cousin, the American crocodile? Get up close and personal with these incredible reptiles at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando. Along the way, you’ll learn more about the region’s mysterious swamp creatures and the bayous they call home.
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com