Alligators are huge reptiles that spend most of their time in the water. Alligators are generally known for their size, teeth, and their threat to humans. However, there is a ton to learn about these prehistoric animals. Their skeletons, for example, might be a source of curiosity for some people.
So, is an alligator a vertebrate or an invertebrate?
Alligators are classified as vertebrates. Alligators have backbones and a spinal cord. Being a vertebrate means that alligators also have an advanced internal skeleton and a developed brain. Only about 2% of animals in the animal kingdom are vertebrates, while the other 98% are invertebrates!
In this article, we’ll discuss the details of alligators’ vertebrate status, as well as, the difference between invertebrates and vertebrates and what that means!
What Is The Difference Between An Invertebrate and A Vertebrate?
The most obvious difference between a vertebrate and an invertebrate is the backbone. Invertebrates have no backbone at all while vertebrates have developed skeletons made of bone and cartilage.
The vertebrae on the spine serve to protect and encase the spinal cord. Vertebrates also have a brain housed within a skull. Animals with a spine also have a developed respiratory system and central nervous system, while invertebrates do not.
Because invertebrates lack supporting structures, they tend to be very small. Many of them stay in one place throughout their entire lives and some can even make their own food! Invertebrates can be found in all different sorts of habitats and for every 100 animals in existence today, 98% of them are invertebrates.
What Animals Are Vertebrates?
Even though there are fewer of them, vertebrates are the animals we’re most familiar with.
Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are all vertebrates. Some common examples of vertebrates are goldfish, dogs, cats, pigeons, frogs, and snakes! Yes, this means that even something as slithery as a snake has a backbone.
What Animals Are Invertebrates?
Invertebrates are more of a mystery to us. Insects, echinoderms, worms, mollusks, sponges, and coelenterates are all invertebrates. Some other examples of these animals are octopuses, squids, jellyfish, starfish, earthworms, and corals.
Invertebrates are found all over the world but the largest of these animals are usually found in the ocean. The buoyancy of the water allows invertebrates to grow larger than they would normally be able to on land without a backbone.
Is An Alligator A Vertebrate Or An Invertebrate?
Since alligators are reptiles, they definitely fall into the category of vertebrates.
Alligators are pretty large and need strong backbones to support their bodies. Alligators also have skulls that house their brains and central nervous systems like other vertebrates.
Of course, alligators also have spinal cords housed within their vertebrae. One obvious physical trait that alligators have are their long strong tails. An alligator’s spine runs all the way down its tail, because of this, they have a lot of vertebrae!
How Many Vertebrae Do Alligators Have?
Alligators have vertebrae that run the length of their body. Alligators have 8 cervical vertebrae, 11 thoracic vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae, 2 sacral vertebrae, and a whopping 40 caudal vertebrae! Obviously, these 40 caudal vertebrae can be found in their tails!
In the video below, you can see why alligators have so many vertebrae in their tails. They can use them to swim, hurt and kill prey, and even knock people over!
Are There Different Kinds Of Alligators?
There are two main types of alligators.
The American alligator can be found exclusively in the U.S. These alligators are found in the southeastern states. American alligators often frequent lagoons, swamps, slow-moving rivers, and even ponds.
The only other species of alligator in existence is the Chinese alligator. The Chinese alligator is found in northeast China along the Yangtze river. Of course, both of these types of alligators are invertebrates.
Sadly, there are more species of alligators that are extinct than in existence today.
What Else Is Special About Alligators?
Alligators are fascinating vertebrates and have a few special features that make them distinguishable from crocodiles and caimans.
Alligators have distinctly flat and u-shaped snouts. They’re large animals but tend to be smaller than crocodiles. Alligators are darker on top and lighter beneath their bellies. This coloring helps them to blend into their natural environments. They have super tough protective scales that protect their bodies when they end up fighting with other alligators!
Alligators have a mating season and lay one clutch of eggs per year. Females build nests that are 6 feet in diameter and 1 to 2 feet high, were they hide their eggs inside, and they also stay close by to protect them until hatching. Alligator courtship is loud and involves a lot of “dancing.”
Alligators are definitely vertebrates. They have over 60 vertebrae that run from the base of their skull down to their tail. Like all other reptiles, these beasts need a strong internal skeleton to function and survive!