|SREL Reprint #0775|
Body Temperature and Behavior of American Alligators during Cold Winter Weather
Lehr Brisbin, Jr., Edward A. Standora and Michael J. Vargo
Data from two large (188 and 135 kg) male alligators
(Alligator mississippiensis) indicated that 4-5 C seemed to be the
lowest body temperatures that they could endure with subsequent recovery.
Although one animal in shallow water managed to keep a breathing hole
open for several days, in ice that was 1.5 cm thick, it later died following a
decrease of its body temperature to 4.0 C.
The second alligato, which was located in a deeper portion of the
reservoir, used both terrestrial and aquatic basking behavior to raise its body
temperature and level of activity. Except
in the case of basking events, there was no clear evidence of significant
elevations of the body temperatures of either the live or dead alligators above
those of their adjacent water. When
located side-by-side, diurnal cycles of deep body temperatures of both the live
animal and the dead animalís carcass were similar, with deep body temperatures
exceeding adjacent water temperatures to a maximum extent near dawn and usually
falling below water temperatures during the afternoon and early evening hours.
The physical properties and thermal inertia of the bodies of such large
alligators, when placed in appropriate microclimates, may be sufficient in
themselves to explain the general patterns and levels of body temperature
changes observed at these low temperatures.
SREL Reprint #0775
Brisbin, I.L., Jr., E.A. Standora, and M.J. Vargo. 1982.
Body temperatures and behavior of American alligators during
cold winter weather. The American Midland Naturalist 107:209-218.