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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2009

Why Do Alligators have Bumps on Their Backs?

Dear Digger Doug,

Why do alligators have bumps on their backs?

—Cora, Kuna, ID

 

Dear Cora,

Thank you for sending me this good question. An alligator’s body is “armored.” It is covered by scales. The skin on the alligator’s back is covered with plates made of bone. These bony bumps are called osteoderms (AH-stee-oh-durms) or scutes (skyoots). They are found in lots of living and extinct reptiles. These plates form a layer that protects the alligator’s organs. It is very hard to penetrate the skin on an alligator’s back. The alligator also has a strong tail that propels it through the water, and the alligator’s powerful jaws can crack a turtle shell. God designed the alligator to be a potent predator that helps maintain balance in the animal kingdom.



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