Do Alligators Eat Turtles? Watch The Video Evidence!

Nov 11, 2021

Do Alligators Eat Turtles

Several clips of turtles taking a free ride on an alligator’s back are doing the rounds on the internet. They bask, relax and travel on the alligator’s back as if they are on their private yacht. It’s hard to believe how fearless these hard-shelled reptiles are.

So it begs the question – how can these reptiles be so comfortable with each other’s presence? 

Let’s find out whether they are actually compatible, or the alligator is just waiting for the golden chance to devour the turtle.

Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

Yes, alligators do eat turtles. Though a turtle isn’t on the top of their menu, alligators will definitely eat them when hungry. A turtle’s shell will not be enough to withstand an alligator’s sheer biting force of over 2000 pounds. So, a turtle will be an easy meal for an alligator.

However, some turtles are also able to escape from the jaws of alligators. 

Also, the shape of the turtle shell is one of the reasons alligators will have a hard time swallowing it.

Here’s a clip of a turtle escaping an alligator’s jaws: 

In the above clip, you can see that the alligator tried to swallow the turtle whole. But this isn’t something that usually happens. 

If the alligator is uncomfortable swallowing whole, it will use its jaws to break apart its prey. Alligators are definitely capable enough to crack a turtle’s shell open and eat them.

Unfortunately, unlike the turtle shown in the video clip, not every turtle that encounters an alligator is safe. 

Here’s a clip of an alligator crushing a turtle’s shell and having a feast:

An adult alligator can exert a biting force of about 2,980 pounds. And a turtle shell, despite having a rock-like surface, isn’t impenetrable. It can only withstand a force tad more than 1,000 pounds.

If you want to know how hard turtle shells are, check out my article on ‘how strong is a turtle shell.’ You’d be surprised to learn!

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How Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

There are three ways an alligator will eat a turtle. First, it depends upon both their sizes. Some alligators are large enough to swallow a turtle in a single gulp. However, it usually happens to smaller turtles.

Another way is using their bite force. Adult turtles like pond and snapping turtles can grow larger than most semi-aquatic turtles. Their size will make it hard for alligators to slug down a turtle whole.

So, they will first crack the turtle’s shell and tear down flesh like other carnivores like lions, tigers and hyenas do.

Blood and water spurts out instantly when the shell is cracked open. After that, it will be easy for the alligator to eat the rest of the turtle.

Lastly, alligators will use the infamous “death roll” to kill aggressive and larger turtles. They will catch turtles with tremendous jaw force and spin them inside the water. This helps them dismember the turtle body parts, making it easier for them to swallow.

Do Alligators Often Eat Turtles?

Alligators are opportunistic predators. They can go without eating for months and wait patiently till some prey ventures into their vicinity. So, turtles sometimes are eaten by larger alligators. But they still don’t make up a staple part of an alligator’s diet.

Fish comprise about 80% of an alligator’s diet. Therefore, only when an alligator is hungry will it turn towards turtles.

Also, the size of the turtle comes into factor. Juvenile alligators will not attempt to eat turtles. The turtle shells are too broad to be swallowed for them. 

The biting force of a juvenile alligator will not be enough to crack a turtle’s shell. So, you can say that the smaller alligators will not dare eat adult turtles.

Do Alligators Eat Baby Turtles?

Alligators can easily overpower an adult turtle and gulp it without trouble. So, yes, they can definitely eat baby turtles. 

Do Alligators Eat Turtle Eggs?

Turtle eggs
Credits: Florida Fish and Wildlife (CC license)

Alligators have a great sense of smell, which they use quite profusely while searching for food. But they will have a hard time finding turtle eggs buried in the sand. If they ever get to a turtle’s nest, they will surely eat turtle eggs.

However, alligators aren’t known for hunting. Instead, they wait patiently and lurk till prey trespasses in their zone. Did you know that alligators can go without eating for 2 years? Yes, so you can guess how patiently they can wait for the right opportunity.

Turtles Riding On Alligators Back. What Does It Mean?

Turtle on alligator back
Credits: Pxhere (Creative Commons license)

You might have seen turtles riding on an alligator’s back in zoos or on the internet. So how come these turtles remain so calm while riding on one of the most dangerous predators of this planet?

Turtles are ectotherms – they require heat to maintain body temperature. So, they bask and get the UV rays necessary to remain healthy. 

An alligator’s back is one of the turtle’s favorite basking platforms. Alligators can remain in one place inside water for hours. So, turtles often mistake them for a basking platform and will climb on their back.

And when a turtle is riding on an alligator’s back, the alligator will risk scaring its other prey while trying to dislodge the turtle. That’s why it will let the turtles remain on its back. And this is why you often see turtles riding on an alligator’s back.

Do Alligators Eat Snapping Turtles?

Adult alligators do eat snapping turtles when they are hungry. But, larger snapping turtles can be too big for juvenile alligators to swallow.

As for adult alligators, their bite force is powerful enough to crush any turtle shell. 

But snapping turtles sometimes can become a problem for juvenile alligators. These turtles, instead, are known to prey upon smaller American alligators.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Alligator snapping turtle
Credits: Gary Tucker (Creative Commons license)

Do Alligators Eat Alligator Snapping Turtles?

Yes, alligators can even break the spinous shell of an alligator snapping turtle. Both these reptiles lurk in the muddy water and are bound to encounter each other often. 

However, an alligator snapping turtle isn’t a first meal choice for these alligators. So, these two animals living together in the same area is a common sight.

Alligator turtles are one of the largest semi-aquatic turtles. This is why alligators usually do not target them. Only if the turtle ventures into the alligator’s territory, the alligator will respond with an attack.

Otherwise, both of them can be found living in the same area – tolerating each other’s presence.

Do Alligators Eat Red-Eared Slider Turtles?

Alligator turtles can quickly gulp down red-eared slider turtles. Although they don’t top an alligator’s list of favorites, they can still outswim and catch these turtles. An alligator’s bite force is over 2500 pounds, so it will easily crack a turtle’s shell.

Can A Turtle Kill An Alligator?

Alligator snapping turtles are known to kill and prey on small American alligators. These turtles can grow over 2 feet in shell length and weigh over 250 pounds. If the alligator snapping turtle encounters an American alligator, the turtle will unhesitatingly snap.

Final Words: Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

Although turtles have robust shells, they cannot withstand the bite force of an alligator. So, yes, the alligators can definitely eat turtles.

However, as slow as turtles are, they aren’t the easiest of meals to catch, even for alligators. Therefore, turtles aren’t the first meal choice for alligators.

Relevant Readings!

Can You Use Fish Water Conditioner For Turtles? Read This First!

Can Turtles Eat Peanuts? A Boon Or Bane For Turtles?

Why Is My Turtle Not Basking? Help Him.

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.