Do Alligators Have Tongues? (Or Taste Buds?)

Alligators are fascinating and large creatures. They are best known for their large size, thick tails, and ferocious teeth.

Alligators, like other animals, have tongues that play an important role. Alligators also have taste buds on the upper palate of their tongue. 

Do Alligators Have Taste Buds?

These large apex predators have taste buds, but why?

Alligators use their taste buds to taste their food to ensure it’s something they can eat. This helps them while hunting.

For example, when a branch hits the water, an alligator might snap at it from sensing the ripples in the water.

However, once they taste bark and not digestible meat, they spit out the tree branch. 

Can Alligators Stick Out Their Tongues?

Alligators cannot stick out their tongues. At least not in the way you are thinking.

An alligator can move their tongue so it acts like a seal underwater. This allows them to open their large mouths underwater, without choking on water. 

Although alligators live in water, they can die or become very sick if water seeps into their lungs. Once the valve is shut tightly, an alligator can snap its mouth open and closed while snapping on prey from underwater.

Do Crocodiles Have Tongues?

Crocodiles, like alligators, have tongues that are important. Alligators have larger tongues, but they work in similar ways.

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Crocodiles have a membrane that holds their tongue to the roof of their mouth.

Since crocodiles spend so much time underwater, tongues protect their airways from saltwater and freshwater. However, they don’t use their tongue while feeding or digesting food.

Crocodiles Taste Buds

Crocodiles have taste buds in their tongue, palate, and pharyngeal walls. Crocodiles are excellent hunters, using many different senses to track and strike large prey.

These true carnivorous hunters use their taste buds to dictate what is food and what isn’t. 

Alligator Hunting Behavior

Alligators use more than just their taste buds and tongues to hunt for their prey. Instead, alligators almost entirely hunt at night, using the darkness to camouflage in the water.

They slowly stalk their prey, before striking quickly. If their prey is on land, they grab and drag their prey underwater, drowning and killing them.

Crocodiles use similar techniques. However, they are considered stronger and quicker hunters. Crocodiles have a stronger bite than alligators.

They are opportunistic hunters, waiting for prey to get close to the water. When a deer or another large prey is drinking water, crocodiles strike quickly. They are ambush predators.

Alligators Digestive System Designs

Alligators take time to digest their food before hunting for prey again.

Alligators eat large animals and can because they divert blood away from the lungs and to their stomachs. This blood helps them increase gastric acid for digestion.

These large reptiles have trouble digesting food that isn’t meat. So foreign objects like trash and even branches and wood don’t digest but get stuck in their stomachs. One scientist even found a 15-inch piece of cypress. 

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Recently, a 750-pound, 13-foot, 5-inch alligator was found with 2 Native American artifacts in his stomach. The arrowhead was from about 1700 BC.

Interestingly, alligators and crocodiles swallow grit and rocks to help with digestion. This might explain why the large gator consumed the two artifacts.

Types Of Alligators And Their Diets

There are two recognized alligator species, however, countless others have gone extinct. Alligators are old and their first ancestry emerged on earth about 35 to 65 million years ago.

This ancestry lived among dinosaurs and is considered a walking fossil. 

American Alligator

The American alligator is native to the Southeastern United States. It is also the largest living alligator species.

Adult male American alligators are gigantic, quickly reaching 15 feet long. Female adult alligators, while smaller, are still very large reaching 10 feet long. 

These large reptiles also weigh a lot. They are heavy and aggressive animals. American Alligators can weigh anywhere from 900 to 2,200 pounds.

American alligators thrive in swampy wetlands throughout the United States. They are not picky eaters and eat anything, including large fish, insects, crustaceans, and small mammals. 

However, alligators have been seen taking down bears and deer while they drank water.

Young juvenile American alligators only consume small insects and fish. Instead, they are most vulnerable and live in large groups with other young gators.

Chinese Alligator

The Chinese alligator is native to some parts of China. Previously, you could find them in the middle-lower Yangtze River region and near the river from Shanghai to Jianling City in the Hubei Province.

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They are a lot smaller than American alligators, but not by much.

Chinese alligators reach 5 feet long and 85 pounds. However, the majority of Chinese alligators are less than 5 feet long and weigh closer to less than 50 pounds.

However, some unconfirmed reports have found Chinese alligators as large as 7 feet long.

These Asiatic alligators eat anything they can find in their environment.

They are opportunistic eaters and mainly eat waterfowl, small rodents, fish, insects, and crustaceans. However, the younger a Chinese alligator, the smaller their diets.

They have blunt teeth which they use to break down shells and hard skin.

Final Thoughts

Alligators use their tongue and taste buds for their survival. Their tongues are long and run along the full length of their snouts. While alligators have tongues, they can’t move them. Their tongues stop water from reaching their lungs.

Nixza Gonzalez

Nixza is a highly experienced content writer with over five years of expertise in crafting expert blogs and digital content on the subject of animals. In addition to her writing skills, Nixza possesses a deep understanding of animal behavior and husbandry, honed through hands-on experience caring for her own pets and through her passion for gardening. When not working, Nixza can often be found spending quality time with her beloved animals, furthering her knowledge and deepening her connection to the natural world.

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