Alligators have a strong sense of smell. They can smell a drop of blood in 10 gallons of water. They use their powerful sense of smell to locate carcasses even if the carcass is several miles away.
Alligators have an acute sense of smell. Unlike other reptiles, such as the snake, an alligator does not rely on its tongue to smell its surroundings. Alligators use their nose to smell. They have an olfactory bulb in their skull that is as big as a walnut.
Can Alligators Smell Blood in the Water?
Alligators cannot detect the smell of blood in the water. They have super sensitive smell receptors, but they can only smell through their nostrils and need to be above the water to smell.
They can smell the blood in the water if their snouts are on land or in the air. Unlike sharks, they cannot smell when they are underwater.
One must pay special attention to this difference. If the alligator is submerged, it cannot smell because it cannot breathe underwater. Alligators can hold their breath underwater for a long time—from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
Since alligators do not have gills, they cannot sniff water when they are submerged. They can only smell blood in the water if they are floating or if their snout is above the water’s surface.
Read More: Every Type of Alligator Compared
Related Article: What Do Alligators Eat?
What Smells Attract Alligators?
Alligators are attracted to the smell of food and pheromones. They can smell animals, alive or dead. Even if the carcass is four miles away, an alligator can smell it.
Alligators detect the carbon dioxide exhaled by potential prey, as well as bodily secretions and blood.
For pheromones, they can smell the scent of other gators looking for a mate. It is why alligators converge in the same spot when the mating season begins.
All types of the smell of food attract gators. Once they take a bite, they decide if that thing is edible or not. It is their taste organs that tell them whether what they have in their mouths is food or not.
Why Are Alligators Attracted to Blood?
Like crocodiles, sharks, lions, and other predators, alligators are attracted to blood because it signals that there may be a dead or wounded animal nearby that could be a source of food.
Alligators are also attracted to the breath and bodily secretions of potential prey, and the smell of rotting meat which may signal that there is an easy meal waiting for them.
Alligators are opportunistic hunters and scavengers, meaning they will actively hunt prey as well as eat from carcasses of already dead animals.
Do Alligators Hunt by Smell?
Alligators hunt by smell, but not underwater. They rise up to the surface of the water and smell their surroundings. They will detect where the smell comes from and then get close to that location.
Aside from their sense of smell, alligators have an acute sense of touch. They can sense small droplets of ripples in the water. They use this ability to pinpoint their prey once they have found the general location using their nose.
Alligators have a powerful sense of smell. They can smell blood—they can smell one drop in ten gallons. However, alligators cannot smell underwater. They can only use their olfactory system when their snouts are about above the water surface.
Alligators also use their noses to smell prey and detect mates. Crocodiles and alligators excrete pheromones to either attract others or mark territories. Despite this, there is no known smell repellent for alligators.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.