Swallowed at One Gulp

An excerpt from E. A. McIlhenny’s 1935 book, ​The Alligator’s Life History:

A large American Alligator drifting by our canoe in the Okefenokee Swamp; March 12, 2015. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

“​When an alligator catches food that is too large to be swallowed with its mouth closed, it raises its head above the water, and after pulping the food by numerous crushings between its jaws it is deftly shifted by throwing the object into the air until the head part points down its throat, when the whole object is swallowed at one gulp. Should the object be too large for the throat, and fail to pass in, it is ejected and again crushed between the jaws until it becomes more pliable, and then swallowed. I have seen a large captive alligator fed, at times, the shoulder containing the bone, and the backbone in sections as much as two feet long of full grown cattle, and these bones were crushed between the alligator’s jaws as matches would be between the fingers of a man.”


E.A. McIlhenny (1872 – 1949), of the McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce company, was a hunter, explorer and naturalist that established the Avery Island wildlife refuge on his family estate in Louisiana and wrote The Alligator’s Life History in 1935. While some of his statements are criticized by modern science, he was one of the most knowledgeable alligator experts in the country at the time. His work contains valuable information and entertaining anecdotes.

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/30254723

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