Yes, alligators eat turtles. There are turtle varieties that live where alligators thrive. As such, they can be a part of an alligator’s diet.
Turtles are difficult to eat. They have a hard shell that protects them from even some of the most powerful predators in the wild. Gators, however, have no problem cracking the shell of a turtle.
Why do alligators eat turtles?
Alligators are carnivores. Turtles are part of an alligator’s diet if turtles are abundant in an alligator’s habitat. Alligators only live n the USA and China, and it so happens that there are turtle species in both countries.
As carnivores, alligators need meat to survive. While it is true that they eat fruits sometimes, plants cannot sustain their health. Therefore, they must eat a lot of meat, up to 23% of their body weight, to survive.
Alligators only eat turtles that they can fit in their mouths. If the turtle is too big, the gator may not even try eating it. It is a waste of energy, and gators do not want to waste power.
Some would, but it fails. Unlike a hippo, the alligator cannot open its mouth 180 degrees. As a result, it may not have enough momentum to crush a big shell. Gators need to open their mouths and shut them fast. It is how they crush prey so easily—power plus speed equals devastation.
Alligators mostly eat fish, vertebrates, frogs, and even birds. If there are mammals around, the gator will surely prey on it. For example, an alligator may chase a turtle in the water or hunt the turtle on land. Turtles are powerless against gators because they cannot outrun predators.
Despite the gator’s unrestricted diet, they do not prey on humans. Yes, they are carnivores, but they would rather stay away from humans. Just because they stay away from humans does not mean they do not attack people.
In Florida, the chance of being attacked by a gator is one in 3.2 million. Gators attack the elderly and children or those seriously injured and weak. Between 1948 and 2016, there were only 23 fatalities from gator attacks.
Humans are not safe from gators. And since humans do not have a protective shell as turtles do, humans are not likely to survive a severe gator attack.
Related Article: Do Alligators Live in Lakes?
Do alligators eat tortoises too?
No, alligators cannot eat a tortoise. For one, tortoises live in different habitats from alligators. Tortoises inhabit deserts, wet forests, and arid grasslands. Most tortoise species live in semi-arid habitats.
It is possible for a tortoise and an alligator to come across each other. However, a tortoise has a big shell. An alligator cannot open its mouth wide enough to even attempt to bite a tortoise’s shell.
How does an alligator eat a turtle?
An alligator attacks a turtle in the same way it attacks other prey. Once the turtle is close enough, the alligator opens its mouth and bites the turtle shell. It happens so fast—in a snap.
Once the turtle is inside the alligator’s mouth, the gator opens its mouth and bites hard several times. This process breaks the turtle’s shell. After several repeats, the turtle is now broken into pieces that the alligator can swallow.
There are many videos on YouTube showing an alligator feasting on a turtle. When the gator bites the shell, one can hear the shell crack. The sound is proof of just how powerful an alligator’s bite is.
An alligator cannot swallow a whole turtle. The only time this can happen is if an adult alligator eats a juvenile turtle. Baby turtles are small, and adult alligators have enough space on their throats to swallow a small turtle whole.
Can an alligator digest a turtle’s shell?
Yes, an alligator can digest a turtle’s shell. Alligators can even digest bones. The way they do this is by moving blood to their digestive system instead of their lungs. They do this after a meal.
The shell of a turtle has bones and keratin. The bones of the spinal columns are fused with the shell, and it is why the turtles cannot get out of their shells.
Keratin is a kind of protein. It is the same type of protein that makes up human hair and nails. It is hard, and it serves as armor.
The way gators digest turtle shell is the same as how they do it with bones. After a meal, the gators transfer blood to the stomach, which increases acid production.
This acid gives their digestive system the power and speed to process bones and shells. If the acidity is low, the alligator will take a long time digesting the turtle.
Do small alligators eat small turtles?
Yes, they do. However, baby gators cannot eat a baby turtle. The baby turtle is much bigger. In addition, the baby turtle will not fit in a juvenile alligator’s mouth.
Baby alligators mostly eat small insects. As they grow, their diets begin to expand. Baby turtles are off the menu, so baby gators will eat frogs, rodents, and other small animals that they can overpower.
Do gators swallow turtles whole?
No, they don’t. It is possible if the turtle is too small, but the gators generally do not swallow live prey. There is a fake video on YouTube where two people caught a crocodilian that was about two years old. Inside the croc’s tummy were several turtles.
Turtles cannot live inside an alligator’s stomach. It is too acidic, so it would have died even if the turtle was alive when swallowed.
In addition, gators chew a little before they eat prey. As a result, they crack the bones and shells. It is not likely for a small turtle to survive after its shell cracks. Its shell and its autonomous nervous systems are fused. Damage to the shell also damages the turtle’s nervous system.
Summary: do alligators eat turtles?
Yes, alligators eat turtles when turtles are around. Alligators are not picky eaters, but they are opportunistic hunters. They target prey that they can defeat.
Alligators do not eat adult tortoises. Adult tortoises are so big that the gator cannot even fit the shell in its mouth. As such, the gator has no way of chewing it.