​The Largest Alligator Ever Measured

Alligators can often reach at least 14 or 15 feet in length, which is even larger than some crocodile species, but not all of them, especially not the Saltwater Crocodile (I am talking about the American alligator – A. mississippiensis here, the Chinese alligator – A. sinensis is much smaller). But what is the largest alligator ever measured?

Related: 20 amazing facts about alligators

There are two candidates:

The Alabama Alligator (The Stokes Alligator) – 15 feet and 9 inches (4.8 meters)

Five members of the Stokes family captured and killed a giant alligator at the Alabama River on August 16, 2014, which measured 15 feet and 9 inches long and weighed 1,011.5 pounds (~458.8 kg). Most sources pick this one as the largest alligator ever recorded. It can be viewed in the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum, Montgomery. Mandy Stokes, who shot dead the animal, has said the alligator was 24 – 28 years old, which was determined from an analysis of its leg bone.

Stokes Alligator, Alabama - the largest alligator ever recorded
The Stokes alligator, which measured 15 feet and 9 inches long and weighed 1,011.5 pounds (~458.8 kg) is in display at the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Louisiana Alligator – 19 feet 2 inches (5.84 meters) ?

According to wikipedia, and the open source encyclopedia cites alligatorfur.com, the largest alligator ever was taken on Marsh Island, Louisiana and was 19 feet 2 inches (5.84 meters). Unfortunately, there’s no photo of the beast. So I have doubts if it’s true.

Update April 6, 2016: The Florida farm alligator

In Florida, hunters shot a 15-feet (4.57 meters) and 800 pound (362.8 kg) alligator. The gator was reportedly terrorizing and eating cattle on a Florida farm. Definitely not the largest ever, but it’s worth to mention it here.

Florida 15-feet alligator
Florida 15-feet alligator. It looks much bigger in the photo because they used the forced perspective technique here.

What’s the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

An alligator is also a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. So the two creatures share many similarities. But what are the real differences between them? This is probably the most frequently asked question when it comes to crocodilians.

The shape of the head (jaw): this is the most obvious difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Crocodiles have a longer, more V-shaped head then alligators. Look at their noses: alligators (and caimans) have a wide “U”-shaped, rounded snout (like a shovel), whereas crocodiles tend to have longer and more pointed “V”-shaped noses.

Alligator and Crocodile heads
Alligator and Crocodile heads. The left one is an alligator, and the right one is a crocodile. Photo: animalsunlimited.co.uk

The broad snout of alligators is designed for strength, capable of withstanding the stress caused to the bone when massive force is applied to crack open turtles and hard-shelled invertebrates which form part of their diet. Of course, alligators eat softer prey too, but hard-shelled prey are ubiquitous in their environment and it’s a big advantage to be able to eat them. Conversely, the pointed snout of a crocodile looks not quite as strong as the alligatorine shape, but the crocodile is still capable of exerting massive biting power, even more than alligators. Crocodile jaws can be thought of as being more generalized – ideal for a wide variety of prey. The full extent of the way jaw shape influences diet isn’t particularly well studied in crocodilians, but it’s obvious that a very thin nose like a gharial’s is much better at dealing with a fish than a turtle. The Indian Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), however, breaks this general rule as its jaws are superficially very similar in shape to those of an Alligator, that said other characteristics mark it as a Crocodile, for example, it’s teeth (see the placement of teeth below).

Despite alligator jaws seem more strong, the crocodile jaws are stronger. They beat all creatures whose bites have been evaluated, in fact. Paleobiologist Gregory M. Erickson and colleagues put all 23 living crocodilian species through an unprecedented bite test. The “winners”—saltwater crocodiles—slammed their jaws shut with 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi), or 16,460 newtons, of bite force (this is far more powerful than even the strongest bite force of the carnivore land mammals). And while a 2008 computer model estimated that a 21-foot (6.5-meter) great white shark would produce nearly 4,000 psi (17,790 newtons) of bite force, that figure hasn’t been directly measured. Read the full story on nationalgeographic.com.

Placement of teeth: in alligators, the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw and completely overlaps it. Therefore, the teeth in the lower jaw are almost completely hidden when the mouth closes, fitting neatly into small depressions or sockets in the upper jaw. This is particularly apparent with the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw. In crocodiles, the upper jaw and lower jaw are approximately the same width and so teeth in the lower jaw fit along the margin of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. Therefore, the upper teeth interlock (and “interdigitate”) with the lower teeth when the mouth shuts. As the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw also fits outside the upper jaw, there is a well-defined constriction in the upper jaw behind the nostrils to accommodate it when the mouth is closed. The fourth tooth of a crocodile sticks out when its mouth is closed.

Alligator and Crocodile - teeth placement
Alligator and Crocodile – teeth placement

Alligators strongly favor freshwater while some species of crocodile live in seawater. Both Alligators and Crocodiles have glands on their tongues that help cope with high salt content in water, only the Crocodiles gland appears to function, or function effectively. This fact means Crocodiles are far more likely to be found in saltwater, than Alligators. Alligator species, of which there are two, are restricted geographically to the southeast of the United States of America, the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis) in the Yangtzee River in China. Caiman species are found in Central and South America, while the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is native to India.

Crocodile species have a far wider range, living throughout the tropical waters of Africa, Asia the Americas and Australia. Most people regard crocodiles as more aggressive than alligators, and this is true of some species. For example, alligators are relatively docile next to saltwater crocodiles, but there are many species with many different kinds of behaviors and temperaments. A general rule that crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators just isn’t possible to make.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, an ex-road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the planet Earth and science on this website, ourplnt.com. You can check out my social media profiles by clicking on their icons.

14 thoughts on “​The Largest Alligator Ever Measured”

    1. What about Deer Meat for Dinners Gator? 13ft 2in. 1127Lb, dont get why it’s not mentioned here… it’s on YouTube.com/deermeatfordinner

      1. For all those concerned about these poor dead alligators think about this. I’m the south alligators diminish the stocking ratios of farmers who raise the crops you eat. You will starve, even vegetarians, if these animals aren’t managed and destroyed. In Florida the biggest farce is that the American Alligator is on the endangered species list. They are invasive and over populated beyond comprehension.

        I, personally, a military vet, lost my service dog to an alligator attack. It would have been a federal crime for the gator to be destroyed. Which it should have been. However, as a law abiding citizen bound to protect our country that alligator remains in what is now named Hoopers Pond. RIP pal. You were the best.

        I don’t want to attack animal rights folks but you must think bigger picture. Those same gators kill calves and other livestock. The American Alligator enjoys more freedom that the citizens do.

        While we overreact to animal populations we just blow the ecosystem apart.

        We began seeing animals as people. We began replacing common sense and logic behind feelings. We have to reason these problems not “feel” our way through them.

        1. Dude, you’re so full of it. The bias is obvious. An alligator ate your dog so you dislike them.

          First of all, Alligators aren’t endangered, theyre rated as LC (least concern). The gators CAN’T be invasive when they’re just as native to that environment as whitetail deer. Seriously what are you going on about?

          The American Alligator mostly eats fish, turtles, birds, and other small animals. They will eat the occasional deer or wild pig, or domesticated dogs, cats, and calves when given the chance, but it seldom happens, and definitely not enough to harm any populations of livestock. You are acting like they’re some kind of scourge to farmers. They aren’t.
          They even control populations of an invasive species that more often preys on cats and dogs, the pythons in Florida.

          We began seeing animals as people? Laughable. PEOPLE are ANIMALS.
          Replacing common sense and logic behind feelings? You’re the one doing that.

      2. Wow

        Have ever watched Nat Geo? Catch one of those shows about the survival of the wildlife.

        I have yet to see a predatory animal, say a lioness or Lion, pull up at the last second, put its paw to its chin and speak, “you know, this is such a beautiful gazelle, I’ll bet he or she has a family. Come to think of it this poor gazelle hasn’t ever done anything too me or my pride. If I kill it how will it’s family eat? I can’t do it ( bursting into tears ). Go on gazelle live long and prosper.

        No it’s never happened. That’s the difference between animal and people. There’s no thoughtful responses. That lion takes that gazelle and it is a blood bath. Total slaughter. There’s no hurt feelings. The gazelle ‘s family doesn’t call a meeting and plan revenge against the lions family.

        I am upset about the gator killing my dog. My service dog. He helped me get through my days since returning to my civilian life. I can promise you that the gator didn’t care. I didn’t care for the way you made light of the situation almost in mocking sarcasm.

        I have watched people kill people for most of my adult life. It’s horrific. It’s left my conscience full of guilt. One night we’re out looking for the “enemy” and the next day we’re pulling children out of a burning school that the so called “enemy” bombed themselves. Killing their very own people and worse yet children.

        Alligators nor any other animal grieve. They don’t have funerals. They don’t plan revenge.

        I will grant you that there are people who act like animals. Some of them in prison. How did they get there? Through a justice system. People judged them guilty and a judge sentenced them to prison. The victims of these criminals cry and lash out when the verdict is read. There’s no judge or jury in the animal kingdom. They have no ability to reason. They fight or flee. The strong survive and the weak are eaten without any concern for outside factors. We would call it selfishness. If the animals could speak, and they can’t, they would probably say, “it’s not selfish. I was hungry so I killed it and ate it. “

        I do believe you’re right in part of your response. Humans are responsible for these gator issues and you’re right again when you said they aren’t in endangered. They are classified as a protected species. There are serious penalties for unlawfully killing an alligator. I don’t make the laws. I don’t agree with many of them, however, as a hunter I can’t subjectively pick and choose which lawfully protected species I can hunt and not hunt because of my belief that one should be protected and one shouldn’t. There’s a couple hundred Florida panthers left and I’m probably guessing on the high side. I can’t just determine that panthers should or shouldn’t be protected whether it killed my dog or not. They’re protected and cannot be hunted just like the gators. I abide by the law. I did report the incident to the wildlife commission and they chose not to destroy the gator. The gator lives, Hooper, my dog, is dead and that’s the way it remains.

        I fought for freedom of speech among other freedoms. I respect your opinion and accept that it differs from mine. There’s no need to get petty.

        I don’t believe humans are animals. You do. We disagree. It’s ok. This is how problems are resolved. Letting people have their say. I’ve had my opinions debunked more times than I care to mention. I try to keep an open mind. This one we’re pretty far apart on. It’s not the end of the world. Who knows, maybe we agree on a bunch of other issues.

        1. Smh. It’s hard to even know where to start. So I’m not even going to try because it will probably do no good to try to explain things to you anyway. Certain things which seem blatantly obvious to some of us are apparently beyond the comprehension of others. Being ‘ovely civilized’ is a sickness afflicting far too many humans. They’ve lost touch with a certain portion of reality and separate themselves from the rest of the natural world by a self imagined barrier, thinking themselves as above and apart from everything else living on this planet. It’s a real shame that some people can’t fathom that humans aren’t that different from other animals, that humans have a monopoly on emotions and are unique to a point of being completely separate and apart from the rest of their natural society of life from which they should share with other animals but which they feel the need to dominate, manipulate and control everything around them. Instead of living in harmony with everything else on this planet they just exploit their surroundings to the point of losing touch with the reality of the fact that humans are just animals too. Humans are the invasive species, exploitive, small minded and cruel. Humans need to get over themselves and take a good look around and truely see that life is precious, to everything, not just to them, but to all living creatures and everything should be treated with respect and dignity, and given space and resources to not only liver, but to thrive in. But that will never happen due to too many small minded people who think themselves above other creatures and pay no concern to how they treat other life. They pay no heed, not a second thought to whatever else might be effected and affected by their actions. Your words seem to reflect that sentiment, the attitude that you’re better than other creatures in nature. Being able to force your will on your surroundings doesn’t make you better than everything else it just makes you a bully. Also, fighting to control the heroin trade in Afghanistan isn’t fighting for my freedom of speech. So don’t believe for one moment that you’re doing or have done me any favors. I support our military but please don’t misrepresent what is purpose is in some of these other countries.

          1. Man, I swear you have no compassion. That man lost his pet possibly his best friend to a Alligator and he didn’t choose where he was sent and what his job was while in the military he signed up to serve his country and was sent where they wanted him and he followed orders just like every other American soldier or salior or airman or marine. You have no idea what that man went through our what that dog ment to him or how many people are alive today because of his and that dogs efforts so show some respect.

        2. The thing about humans is, we’re invasive everywhere. We kill elephants, their young, orangutans and chimpanzees (all animals who have been proven to mourn and grieve after losing young or family) for nothing but fun. We’re destroying everything, not just to survive but for greed. Fuck off and grow up you fucking retard.

  1. Wikipedia also cites this as a source for the 5.94 m long alligator: Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.