Alligators ‘Snorkel’ to Survive Ice-Covered Swamp

By Laura Geggel

A video showing alligator snouts poking out though an ice-covered swamp in North Carolina during last week’s cold snap may look like the preview of an avant-garde art installation, but it actually depicts an adaptive trick that helps these reptiles survive in winter weather, a wildlife ecologist said.

Unlike mammals, alligators rely on ambient temperature to keep their bodies warm, which is why they can often be found basking in the sun or hanging out in air-pocketed burrows they’ve dug into the banks of rivers and lakes.

But when it gets so cold that their ponds freeze over, some alligators are known to swim to the surface and poke their snouts above the icy water so they can breathe properly, James Perran Ross, a retired associate scientist of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, told Live Science.

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