In the extremely unusual blast of cold weather that the region surrounding North Carolina experienced, something interesting was photographed.
Alligators residing in North Carolina’s Shallotte River had to deal with being trapped in solid ice: so they stuck their heads above the ice and let the rest of their bodies freeze. Several photos were taken:
Usually the alligators would be bathing in the sun or resting along the swamp’s bottom. In this video, staff from the Shallotte River Swamp Park captured footage of the alligators surviving.
There is actually a term for what they did: brumation, a reptilian version of hibernation in which a reptile’s metabolism dramatically slows down, and the animals enter a lethargic state, sometimes as an emergency response to dangerously cold temperatures.
When the water is not frozen (and it is never frozen because it’s North Carolina), usually the alligators just brumate at the bottom of their swamp, popping up above the water for air once or twice a day.
The idea is to have access to air in this usual, freeze induced state of brumation. Live Science consulted a retired ecologist named James Perran Ross, who said:
“The normal response of most other crocs when it gets really cold is to come out of the water and try to bask to get warm again.”
According to Science Alert:
“That [getting out of the water] might not be an option here, though – because of bomb cyclone weirdness generally, and the colder-than-usual air temperatures the US is currently weathering as a result, which could be dangerous to unsheltered alligators.”
Alligators can actually live in temperatures as cold as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees Celsius. However, in ice like this they can only survive for about a week.
The Swamp Park’s general manager George Howard luckily confirmed that the alligators are safe and warm now. He said:
“It’s 65 degrees [Fahrenheit] here today and the waters have melted. They’re out and doing their happy dance.”
They can sense temperature changes and will stick their noses out of the water to breathe. In that state, they are still alive, still moving, but very lethargic.”
This is a safe, unfrozen alligator.