Q:

How do alligators breathe?

A:

Quick Answer

Alligators breathe by inhaling air into their lungs. They do not have gills and cannot breathe underwater, though they can stay underwater for intervals of up to two hours, and it is believed they can hold their breath even longer if necessary.

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Full Answer

Alligator lungs have unidirectional air flow, which means that air moving through the lungs is largely fresh air and has a high oxygen content. Bird lungs also have unidirectional air flow. The lungs of mammals have bidirectional air flow, meaning the air moves back and forth into and out of the lungs. Because of this, air coming into the lungs of a mammal is mixed with air that has been in the lungs for a while. This mixed air has less oxygen. In alligator lungs, more oxygen is available to diffuse into the blood.

Alligators primarily inhabit fresh water. They tend to submerge themselves underwater for between 10 and 15 minutes. When an alligator goes underwater, its nostrils, ears and throat are automatically closed off by a flap. These flaps prevent water from entering the lungs or stomach. Alligators slow their heart rate and close certain blood lines in their bodies, allowing more blood to get to the vital organs. The blood carries oxygen to these organs, delaying the need for the alligator to breathe.

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    A:

    Alligators reproduce via internal fertilization, mating at night and eventually laying 35 to 50 eggs in a small pit, which is then covered with a nest of decaying vegetation. About five times as many females are hatched as males after an incubation of 65 days, with the sex of offspring determined by temperature rather than genetic differences. The mother guards the eggs and digs them up as they begin hatching.

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