Humans aren’t the only ones having to learn to adapt to unprecedented cold temperatures and snowy weather. The warm-weather-thriving alligators of the South are also adapting.
States like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have gotten hit by a snowstorm that is far beyond the warm, pleasant weather they’re used to. In fact, Texas has had millions of people lose their power. Residents have had to boil water to use and are dealing with infrastructure issues like frozen pipes.
These states aren’t equipped to deal with this weather. People rushed to stores to get groceries like it’s the apocalypse. There’s a rising death toll. People on social media have been sharing tips and snippets into how to brace the cold from inside a non-heated home.
Alligators Are ‘Icing’ to Survive
While humans are inside shivering and melting icicles in pots, alligators are outside “icing” under the frozen water in states like Oklahoma. “Icing” means two different things for humans and alligators. For humans, it’s a popular drinking game or meme that started in 2010 where someone hides a bottle of Smirnoff Ice for someone else to find. Then the person has to chug it right there.
For alligators, it’s a lot less fun and more about just staying alive.
Icing is when the alligators stick just their snouts out of the water. According to a Facebook post from David Arbour, an official with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, it’s a technique that allows the alligators to breathe in frozen water.
It’s similar to humans snorkeling, however, humans snorkel for enjoyment, and alligators are icing in places like Oklahoma as a natural survival tool.
The Science Behind ‘Icing’
According to Live Science, this technique will save the alligators in the event the entire body of water freezes over. At this time of the year, they are going through brumation, which is kind of similar to hibernation. Essentially, they lower their metabolism to survive the cold, don’t eat for a few months, and essentially just chill in nature for up to five months.
If an alligator gets too cold it’ll die. They’re cold-blooded and take on the temperature around them. You’ll never spot an alligator chilling in the Midwest for this reason.
For someone approaching a near-frozen pond, seeing alligators icing can be a scary and abnormal site. It appears without previous knowledge that the alligators are frozen and dead in a block of ice. They can even appear to be tree stumps from a distance until you get a closer look and notice massive teeth poking out of the water instead.
According to The Washington Post, icing is a bit of a phenomenon. One of the earliest studies of watching the alligators do it was in 1982. The creature actually ended up dying when its body temperature became too low. It is also a learned technique. In 1990, a group of baby alligators drowned in North Carolina trying to break through the ice.
Hopefully, the weather will warm up before alligators’ internal temperatures drop too low.
During the chaos of the 2021 snowstorm, alligators are a pretty epic example of how nature learns to thrive in difficult conditions.