Albino alligators lack the pigment melanin. They are the offspring of two normal-looking alligators that carry the recessive gene for albinism. Albino alligators have ivory-white skin and pinkish eyes. Another type of white alligator is the leucistic alligator, which makes some melanin in certain parts of its body. The leucistic alligator usually has blue eyes and patches of normally colored skin on its body.
Scientific & Common Names
White alligators are simply a color variation of the American alligator, also known to scientists as Alligator mississippiensis. White alligators may be albino with pink eyes, or they may be leucistic with bluish eyes. Only American alligators have been found in white.
Female alligators are about 8 feet long on average, and males are about 11 feet long. The largest male alligators can weigh up to 1000 pounds. Alligators have four short legs and long, heavy bodies. Their skins are covered with tough, bony plates called scutes. Alligators have long, broad snouts with upward facing nostrils on the ends of their snouts. They have sharp teeth protruding all along the length of their mouths. Albino alligators lack pigments in their skins making them a pale ivory color. Their eyes are pink.
When an alligator reaches about 6 feet in length, it is able to reproduce. This occurs around the age of 10 to 12 years. Alligators mate after dark in shallow waters. The female builds a large nest from a pile of vegetation. In June or July, the female will lay between 30 and 50 eggs in the nest. Often, the female will guard her nest until the eggs hatch. For 65 days, the eggs will lie covered with decomposing vegetation. If the nest temperature rises above 93 degrees, all the hatchlings will be male, and if the temperature falls below 86 degrees all the babies will be female. If the temperatures stay between those two limits, both male and female hatchlings will result. When the hatchlings are almost ready to hatch, they begin making shrill noises from inside their shells. These sounds signal to the mother that it is time to remove the topmost layer of vegetation covering the eggs. The babies emerge from the eggs looking like miniature adult alligators.
Alligators are carnivores, eating small amphibians, fish, crabs, and crayfish. Larger alligators eat other alligators, larger mammals, snakes, turtles, and birds. Alligators like to rest underwater with just their nostrils and eyes protruding above the surface of the water. They use their sharp teeth and powerful jaws to snap up prey, which may be swallowed whole. When an alligator seizes an animal that is too large to swallow whole, it will rip the prey into large chunks by shaking its head or by rolling its whole body along the horizontal axis.
Albino alligators were found as hatchlings and brought to zoos and alligator farms. Folklore said that seeing a white alligator in the wild would bring good luck.
In the wild, albino alligators would not live long because they could not blend in with their surroundings. The young albinos would quickly be eaten by predators. These alligators are extremely rare in the wild, and most of them are found in zoos, alligator farms, and nature preserves. Biologists estimate that there are only about 100 albino alligators in the world.