Do Alligators Blink? (Answered By Vet Tech)

Do Alligators Blink

Alligators are large prehistoric reptiles that can be found in both North America and Asia. Alligators are fascinating and mysterious and can even be dangerous.  These reptiles have some very interesting traits since they live on both land and sea.

Even though they’re vertebrates, that’s about as far as their similarities go with humans. One interesting thing that alligators do is that they tend to lie completely still for hours at a time.  When you’re watching an alligator in the wild it’s only natural to wonder:

Do alligators blink?

Even though you might not ever see it happen in real life alligators do blink. Alligators have eyes that aren’t so different from ours and need to stay moist to function properly. Sometimes an alligator will blink by closing just the inner eyelids and sometimes they’ll close both the inner and outer eyelids.  

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about whether or not alligators blink and how they do it. Let’s get started.

Do Alligators Blink?

While they might look like statues, alligators do in fact blink.

Alligators blink for the same reasons that many other animals do.  What is the most important function of blinking is to help clear the eye of foreign particles.  Blinking is a great way to clear debris from the eye without having to rub the eye on anything.  Alligators don’t have fingers to get things out of their eyes blinking is really helpful.

Another reason why alligators blink is to help keep their eyes moistened.  Blinking lubricates the surface of the eye which helps to make everything look more clear.  A moist eye is a functional eye.  Plus dry eyes are irritating and uncomfortable.

These basic explanations prove that alligators do in fact blink, but there is one other reason why alligators blink.

Why Do Alligators Have Two Sets Of Eyelids?

Alligators have a slightly different blinking pattern than humans do.

You may have noticed earlier that we mentioned that alligators have inner and outer eyelids.  The outer eyelid of alligators is similar to ours.  The outer eyelid is made up of two pieces of skin that can close together to protect and clean the eyeball.

The inner eyelid also referred to as the third eyelid, is called the nictitating membrane.  The nictitating membrane is a thin layer present on the eyes of many animals.  Birds of prey, diving mammals, and even dogs have nictitating membranes.  In alligators, the nictitating membrane helps them to protect their eyes while swimming and to clear their eyes from things like sand.

So, alligators might also blink to help them see while underwater.

Many reptiles have special adaptations to their eyes and eyelids to help them survive the harsh ecosystems they’re native to.

How Do Alligators Blink?

When on land alligators will usually close their third island first and then follow with their outer eyelids. They blink pretty slowly but they also move slowly until it’s time to hunt.  The video below shows a great example of what an alligator blink looks like.  You can clearly see both sets of eyelids working to protect the eye.

Alligators do blink even though it looks a little different from the way that we blink.

How Often Do Alligators Blink?

It’s hard to say how often alligators blink.  Essentially, alligators blink as often as they need to in order to keep their eyes moist and clean.

While swimming, alligators don’t need to blink at all.  Once their third eyelid is covering their eye they have semi-permanent swim goggles on.  While on land alligators might blink more often and dry sunny climates and less often in cool dark areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve answered the question, do alligators blink, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions.

Do Alligators Sleep?

Just because alligators blink doesn’t mean they sleep right?

Well, that’s not right. Alligators do in fact sleep.

Surprisingly alligators are most active at dawn and dusk. Dawn and dusk are the hours of the day when they can see the best but won’t overheat.  Whether we’re talking about the American alligator or the Chinese alligator both of these reptiles can be found sleeping during the day and sometimes during the night as well.

Alligators are considered diurnal so technically they’re supposed to sleep during the night. But, when the days are hot you’ll often find them taking naps along the banks of the river in which they inhabit.

Do Alligators Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

There is a myth that alligators sleep with their eyes open. Sadly this myth just isn’t true.

Alligators almost always sleep with both of their eyes shut. However, crocodiles are a slightly different story. Crocodiles are capable of something called unihemispheric sleep.

Unihemispheric sleep is a state in which an animal only sleeps with 1/2 of their brain while the other half stays awake. That may allow crocodiles to sleep with one eye open and stay aware at all times.

Studies showed that most of the time, crocodiles sleep with both eyes shut and only leave 1 eye open for about an hour each day.

Do Alligators Have Night Vision?

You might be surprised to learn that alligators have excellent night vision.

Alligators have a structure in their eye that is similar to cats called the tapetum lucidum.  The structure basically lets these animals make the most of low-light situations. It works by reflecting light in the back of the eye.

Not only does this allow alligators to see well in the night but it also helps you to locate alligators in the night. The tapetum lucidum usually glows red when light hits it.  That means any alligator eyes in the night will look like shining red orbs.

Do Alligators Close Their Eyes?

Alligators definitely close their eyes.

Not only do alligators blink, but they also closed their eyes to get some sleep. It’s common for alligators to sleep or take long naps during the hottest times of the day. Closing their eyes helps them to get rest and shut-eye while the sun is still high in the sky. When alligators close their eyes they shut their third eyelid first and then close their outer eyelid after.

Final Thoughts

Alligators are fascinating and slightly terrifying. It’s good to know that just like us, these animals need to blink to survive. Alligator eyes are susceptible to the elements and eyelids help keep them clear of debris and moist. An alligator’s third eyelid also helps it to see while swimming underwater.

Alligators don’t blink often but if you’re watching one in the wild you’ll definitely see their eyelids move back and forth.