Chinese alligator
At the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Crocodylia
Family: Alligatoridae
Genus: Alligator
Binomial name
Alligator sinensis
Fauvel, 1879
220px-Alligator sinensis Distribution.png
range (green)

The Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) (simplified Chinese: 扬子鳄; traditional Chinese: 揚子鱷, yáng zǐ è), also known as the Yangtze alligator, is one of two known living species of Alligator, a genus in the family Alligatoridae. This critically endangered species is endemic to eastern China.

Distribution and habitat

Overall, the Chinese alligator lives in a subtropical, warm temperate region. The Chinese alligator's usual habitat was in places of low-elevation and freshwater sources. This includes marshes, lakes, streams, and ponds.

The alligator originally ranged through much of China. However, in the 1950s, the Chinese alligator was found only in the southern area of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) from Pengze to the western shore of Lake Tai (Tai Hu), in the mountainous regions of southern Anhui, and in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. They were usually found in the lakes, streams, and marshes for a time. But in the 1970s, the species was restricted to a small part of southern Anhui and the Zhejiang provinces. Then, in 1998 the biggest area the alligator lived in was a small pond along the Yangtze River surrounded by farmland, and only 11 alligators lived inside of it. At this point, the alligator's geographic range had been reduced by 90%. The Chinese alligator's population reduction has been mostly due to conversion of its habitat to agricultural use. A majority of their usual wetland habitats has been turned into rice paddies. Poisoning of rats, which the alligators then eat, has also been blamed for their decline. It was also not uncommon for people to kill the alligators, because they believed they were pests, out of fear, or for their meat.

Pliocene remains have been uncovered in Japan.


The Chinese alligator remains dormant during the winter, residing in burrows built into banks of wetlands. Once the spring comes the burrows are still used, just not as much. The alligators spend most of their time raising their body temperature in the sun. Once their body heat is high enough they become nocturnal. They can regulate their body temperature easily by using the water, moving into the shade when they begin to get too hot and moving into the sun if they begin to get too cold. Chinese alligators are also considered the most docile of the crocodilian order, but, as with any crocodilian, they are capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm.


Though usually solitary, the Chinese alligator participates in bellowing choruses during the spring mating season. Both genders participate in rough unison and during the chorus the alligators remain still. The choruses last on average about 10 minutes and interestingly enough respond to both the chorus of both genders equally. It has been theorized that this is because the chorus is not a mating competition, simply a way for mating groups to gather together. It has also been theorized, however, that these choruses do not serve any purpose. Once mating groups have gathered male Chinese alligators impregnate only one female per season. Mating usually results in around 20-30 eggs. The eggs of the Chinese alligator are actually the smallest of any crocodilian. Their eggs are even smaller than other crocodilians with smaller female body sizes.

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