This truly massive alligator was spotted casually walking across a path in Central Florida. The locals call it "Hunchback." pic.twitter.com/rBMt6JwtQ4
— CNN (@CNN) January 17, 2017
Though its massive size may lead you to believe otherwise, an alligator recently caught on camera in Florida’s Polk County Discovery Center is likely to be real, according to National Geographic.
Experts have indeed confirmed that American alligators can grow as large as the creature featured in the now widely-circulated video.
“The largest published size record for the American alligator is a 14-foot, 9.25-inch individual that was killed in Alabama in 2014,” David A. Steen, a wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist, told National Geographic. “The American alligator in the video does not look nearly as big as those record-holders, and I have no reason to suspect it is a fake.”
The curator of reptiles at the Los Angeles Zoo, Ian Recchio, agreed with Steen’s assessment.
“The animal in the video is most certainly an American alligator, and it’s a pretty large one, probably a male,” Recchio told National Geographic. “I can’t tell if somebody photoshopped the people in the background, but it appears to be authentic.”
Recchio then speculated upon the creature’s size, saying “12 feet is not unreasonable to estimate.”
Such a size indeed would not be out of the question, as scientists believe that alligators grow throughout their entire lives, which can often last 70 or 80 years.
However, until recently, many alligators simply didn’t grow that old and get that big. But because conservation efforts have helped alligator populations rebound, this could be one of the reasons that swamp-goers have been spotting alligators massive enough to be dinosaurs lately.
“This was a species that was persecuted, almost to extinction, so the population had been reduced,” Recchio says. “We now are seeing older mature alligators, which in the past weren’t around because they were hunted.”
And as alligator lifespans increase along with conservation efforts, who knows how large these creatures may soon grow.