North Carolina Alligators Survive Surprise Freeze by Turning Their Noses Into Snorkels
For cold-blooded creatures that often spend hours basking in the sun to stay warm, alligators are impressive winter warriors when they need to be.
As the cities of the Carolinas shut down in the face of the recent "Bomb Cyclone," the gators of The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle, North Carolina, just took a nap.
According to The Washington Post, the superstorm that blew through the Northeast caused the pond the alligators call home to freeze over for the first time in the alligator reserve's two-year history.
For non-gatorheads this may seem worrisome, but these American alligators had an emergency plan in place. In response to cold weather, alligators burmate, a kind of mini-hibernation in which the reptiles slow their breathing and metabolism and temporarily shut down any unnecessary body functions. As a final act of defiance against frigid temperatures, alligators will stick their snouts above the water line, allowing them to freeze above any ice that forms.
They turn their noses into snorkels, so they can keep breathing, even though the rest of their bodies are stuck underwater.
The 10 alligators living at the North Carolina park used this tactic to make it through the recent cold snap. George Howard, the park's general manager, spotted the snouts first and took photos and videos to share on the park's social media accounts, where the posts have been shared thousands of times.
"They have been around for millions of years" Howard told the Post. "They are one of the only species in existence that is virtually unchanged. And they continue to be good at just surviving. This is just another example of how tough they are."
Howard also documented the gators' great thaw on Tuesday, sharing a video of the now ice-free alligator pond.
Just because things are starting to heat up again, doesn't meant the gators will be out and about. While it is still cold, the alligators will stay burrowed in the mud at the bottom of the water for most of the day. Think of it as staying in bed under three comforters.
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Other reptiles also adopt quasi-hibernating tactics in the face of frigid weather. Residents of southern Florida recently found "frozen" iguanas on their lawns. The lizards fell from nearby trees after entering a vegetative state to wait out the colder temperatures — once the thermometer starts to rise again the iguanas will be revived, scampering off on their own without help.