Twelve X. Image reversed. Creative Commons
This article is intended to serve
as a brief summary of this species of critically
endangered crocodilian that inhabits parts of China.*
Chinese 'sibling' of the American alligator, which might be loosely
considered a dwarf version of it,
is one of the most endangered
crocodilians in the
are far more of them in captivity than in the
wild, where their number was estimated to be fewer than 130
Formerly more widely distributed over the Lower Yangtze River
area, it is now
entirely or mostly restricted to a small area of a single province.
A number of factors, including habitat
loss, natural disasters, destruction by humans (hunting and
industry encroachment), low reproductivty and fragmented
population distribution, contribute to the
complex threat to the survival of this species.
Like its American relative, the
alligator is a member of the Family Alligatoridae, a group in
scientific classification that is distinct from the crocodiles,
and it inhabits temperate zone, living in wetlands and ponds, many
in close proximity to agriculture, a situation that generates
confilct between human and animal.
Unlike the American species, it lives
at relatively high northern latitude, and spends much of the
(a kind of reptile hibernation in low temperatures)
in complex burrow systems. Similarly, the American alligator brumates in the northerly reaches of its range
(i.e. North Carolina) and
excavates a burrow for such use. The Chinese reptile becomes
active when the warmer temperatures occur, usually starting in
May, when it emerges from its burrow nocturnally. Courtship begins in June, and nesting takes place during
July and August. Ten to forty eggs may be laid in a mound of
vegetation constructed by the mother alligator. Like her North
American relative, she will tenaciously guard her nest; the
image below depicts such behavior.
The specimen pictured above is found at the
Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.
Hume. Image reversed. Creative Commons
A mother alligator floats
nearby almost stealthily as sentinel of her progeny, guarding her mound nest at a breeding facility in
Anhui Province, China.
Courtesy of, and 2010 Copyright by, Joe Abene.)
The Chinese alligator body much resembles
the American's, an notable exception being that the former reaches a
maximum length of 6.6ft/2m, about half that of the latter.
Furthermore, it features an array of tiny "specks",
alternating light- and dark-colored
dots or "splotches", about its hide far more prominently than that of the
American. The Chinese version's snout and head also appears more
blunt and its hide is rougher, making it undesirable to the
leather goods industry.
Chinese alligator has been successfully bred at American
facilities in New York and in the natural clime of its American
relative, Florida and Louisiana. The Association of Zoos &
Aquariums' (AZA's) conservation program has distributed this
species thorughout the USA for
exhibit and observation at various zoos, such as at the
Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, pictured above.
This vintage photograph is
of an American alligator (at top) and a Chinese, on display at a
zoo. (Image: Public domain.)
If you wish to learn more, you may
enjoy this more detailed species
profile, and you may contribute
funds to a dedicated conservation program,
The Chinese Alligator Fund.
CROCODILE SPECIALIST GROUP. 2017.
Crocodilian Species: Chinese alligator (Alligator
sinensis) [cited 30 May 2018]. Gland,
Swtizerland: IUCN. Available from:
JIANG, H. X. 2010. Chinese
Alligator Alligator sinensis. Pages 5-9 in
Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Third
Edition, S.C. Manolis and C. Stevenson, Eds [cited 31 May 2018]. Crocodile
Specialist Group: Darwin. Available from:
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the presence of a link to a website published by another entity
does not indicate any formal association of LivingAmongAlligators.com with that entity and should not be construed as
SUGGESTED ARTICLE CITATION: Dupont,
Israel. 2018. The alligator's 'sibling' in China: species summary
of the Chinese alligator. LivingAmongAlligators.com
[ [insert date cited] ]; June 2018. Available from: http://www.