how long can alligators stay underwater

[INSANE ANSWER!] How Long Can Alligators Stay Underwater?

Have you ever been walking or driving near a swampy area and wondered if there is an alligator in the water? I sure have!

Not only are alligators camouflaged to look like logs, they are also very good at hiding just under the surface of the water.

I have often wondered how long alligators can actually stay completely submerged, so I decided to do a little research and the answer may surprise you!

How Long Can Alligators Stay Underwater?

Alligators can easily stay underwater for 20-30 minutes. This is a normal amount of time for them, but what shocked me the most is that they can stay underwater for much longer than that if they need to!

Arkansas alligator
Arkansas alligator just under the surface. Photo by Jeff Gray

Did you know that alligators can stay underwater for over an hour?

In fact, I recently read that alligators can stay underwater for 1 to 24 hours if necessary. It takes some preparation for this to happen but they can definitely do it (i.e. slow their heart rate).

This information is a bit controversial because some sources state that alligators can only stay underwater for no more than 2 hours.

According to the University of California, “Dr. Andersen found evidence that certain circulatory adjustments in the submerged alligator shut off the blood supply to some organs and tissues not critically dependent upon a continuous supply of oxygen. The alligator remains conscious until his oxygen is almost depleted, then returns unharmed to the surface.”

So, I guess it really just depends on who you ask, but everyone does seem to agree that alligators generally only stay underwater for up to 30 minutes.

Do Alligators Breathe Underwater?

No, alligators cannot breathe underwater.

Alligators are not fish and this means that they do not have gills.

They have lungs like you and I. That means they must come to the surface to breathe just like us.

Just like humans, alligators can hold their breath while they are underwater, but once their oxygen is depleted, they must come back up.

Alligator in Arkansas lake
Alligator in Arkansas lake. Photo by Jeff Gray

Do Alligators Sleep In The Water?

Well, yes. Alligators do sleep in the water just like I have fallen asleep on a pool floatie before, but they prefer to sleep on the shore.

Side note: Waking up sunburned on your pool floatie is not fun.

When alligators sleep in the water, they leave their nostrils out of the water so they can breathe as needed.

When sleeping on the shore, alligators will sleep right by the water line so they can be partially in the water. They also like to dig in the mud to make a nice place to sleep.

How Do Alligators Sleep Without Drowning?

Well, as stated above, when sleeping in the water, alligators leave their nostrils sticking up out of the water so they can breathe while they are sleeping.

Alligators can float just below the surface of the water by inflating and deflating their lungs.

What’s special about an alligator’s lungs is that they don’t just let him float. They allow the gator to control his floating in special ways. When it’s time to go under, an alligator has muscles that move his lungs backward in his body, allowing his head to dip so he can dive smoothly through the water — where he can remain for up to two hours. (source)

So, How Long Can Alligators Stay Underwater?

The basic answer is that alligators generally stay underwater for only 20-30 minutes although they can stay underwater longer if needed.

No matter the answer, always be aware when you are near an alligator’s habitat. Keep in mind that alligators can run!

Also, don’t miss this: Do Alligators Eat People?

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