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Are Alligators Nocturnal, Diurnal or Crepuscular?

Are Alligators Nocturnal, Diurnal or Crepuscular
Brown and tan alligator

Alligators are mostly nocturnal, but they can also be diurnal. They are active mostly at night, but they also hunt during the day.

Alligators mostly bask under the sun during the day. At night, they hunt for food. Since alligators have different sleeping mechanisms, most people think that they are awake even if they are asleep during the day.

Do alligators sleep in the day?

American Alligator

Yes, alligators sleep during the day. Alligators can sleep for as long as 17 hours. When alligators feed, they take some time to digest their food. As such, they do not eat every day.

Since alligators are cold-blooded animals, they do not need to feed regularly. A typical feeding schedule for an alligator is once a week, but this has to be a heavy meal.

During the day, alligators bask under the sun. It is during this period that an alligator sleeps. One curious thing about alligators is that as a crocodilian, it sleeps with its other eye open.

This sleeping pattern is called uni-hemispheric sleep. The other brain of the alligator is wide awake while the other half is asleep. As such, it is almost impossible to sneak on an alligator. It will always wake up.

Related Article: Are There Alligators in Oklahoma?

How do alligators sleep?

Chinese Alligator in Captivity
Chinese Alligator in Captivity

Many alligators dig a hole where they can find refuge. The holes are in the mud, and it is what people refer to as a “gator hole.” Alligators stay in these holes to sleep.

Some of them sleep under the sun or out in the open. When the temperature drops, they stay in the hole to stay warm.

Alligators also use these holes to go through periods of dormancy. While alligators do not hibernate, they go through an inactive or dormant state called brumation.

Brumation is a process that many reptiles go through during cold months. It is similar to hibernation but not exactly the same. When reptiles like alligators brumate, they are still awake.

Related Article: Can Alligators Be Tamed and Domesticated?

Are alligators more active at night?

Alligator eating meat
Alligator eating meat

Yes, alligators are more active at night than during the day. They are most active from dusk until dawn. Because of this, people who camp near alligator nests and habitats are in danger of getting attacked.

Even as babies or juveniles, alligators hunt at the night. Like cats, alligators can see clear at night because they have a tapetum lucidum at the back of their eyes. 

The tapetum lucidum is a reflector of light. It provides the eyes with light-sensitive retinal cells, making cats and gators use whatever light is available at night. The difference between alligators and cats is that at night, an alligator’s eyes glow red.

Since alligators are active at night, alligator hunters leave baits in various areas overnight. Then, they come back to the bait in the morning. The hunters know that the gators will eat their baits at night.

Do baby gators hunt at night or day?

chinese alligator

Baby gators hunt in the night. Baby gators are small, and they stay together as a group. They also depend on the protection of their mother.

At a week old, the baby gators are perfectly camouflaged. They have bright yellow stripes that make them invisible to the grass in the pond. At one week old, they are only eight inches long. They are defenseless—birds and bigger gators can feed on them.

At night, the baby hatchlings become active as there are fewer predators around. The breakaway from their groups and hunt alone. Even at a young age, these aby gators already have the instinct to hunt.

Mother alligators do not feed their babies. As such, the babies must hunt all night. They pounce on small fish and small insects.

Since the baby alligators are not experienced, their hunting strikes are not precise yet. By the time they are big enough, they will leave their groups and hunt alone.

Are Florida alligators nocturnal?

alligator

Yes, Florida alligators are nocturnal. They come out at night to hunt. The alligators in Florida are no different than any alligator in the United States, as there are only one alligator species in the US in the wild.

In Florida, people are advised to stay out of the alligator habitat at night, especially during mating season. Alligator courtship begins in April, and the mating happens between May and June.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife also reminds people that the metabolism of alligators increases as the temperature rises. Because of this, they are likely to get hungry and sometimes hunt during the day.

Are alligators crepuscular?

Alligator Brumating
Alligator Brumating

No, a crepuscular animal is active during twilight. Twilight is the time of day when the sun is below the horizon, so it is early in the morning.

Here are some examples of crepuscular animals:

  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Barn owl
  • Moths
  • Flies
  • Beetles

An alligator is not crepuscular because it is active in the darkness when there is no sun but only the moon. On the other hand, it is not diurnal because they typically just bask under the sun during the day.

When alligators are awake during the day, they rarely hunt for food. What they do is take the heat o they can regulate their internal body temperature.

Is it safe to swim in alligator-infested waters during the day?

No, it is not safe to do so. Even if alligators are nocturnal, some of them are awake during the day. Besides, alligators sleep so lightly that any small disturbance will wake them up.

The government, like the Florida Fish and Wildlife, strongly warns against swimming in gator-infested waters. Nobody should ever swim in a body of water, even if there is only one alligator spotted. 

Summary

Generally speaking, alligators are nocturnal creatures. They are mostly active at night, hunting and mating. During the day, they can sleep for as long as 17 hours.

When alligators sleep, they only sleep with half of their brains. One of their eyes is wide open. They also sleep lightly. During the day, they sleep under the sun to soak in some heat. In cold months, they sleep in their dens called gator holes.

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