Amazing Alligator Design: The Eyes

American Alligator eyes, Alligator mississippiensis, submerged swimming in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. Kingfisher Landing canoe trail launch. November 12, 2021 ©

While we are inspired by an alligator basking in full glory on the bank of a canal or atop a fallen cypress, the more common sight throughout the Okefenokee Swamp, especially in hotter months, is pairs of eyes protruding just above the surface of the slow Okefenokee currents. The American Alligator is perfectly designed for life in the swamp.

The eyes, positioned on high atop the head, allow the alligator to see even while the rest of its body is totally submerged in the dark swamp waters. Also, the positioning of the eyes on the side of the head give it a wide field of view to scan for potential threats and prey. Multiple eyelids, including an opaque “third eyelid” called a nictitating membrane, protect the alligator’s eyes during eating and navigating through the swamp habitat.

  • Ouchley, K.. American Alligator: Ancient Predator in the Modern World. University Press of Florida, 2013.
  • Vliet, Kent, and Wayne Lynch. Alligators: The Illustrated Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and ConservationIllustrated, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020.

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