If you thought it got cold in East Texas this weekend, imagine how it felt in North Carolina where the temperature dipped well below freezing...and stayed there. People can brew a mug of hot cocoa, bundle up and stay indoors but animals aren't so lucky.

Shallotte River Swamp Park is an outdoor adventure park and alligator rescue. Currently, their website says they have 18 live gators staying in their sanctuary. When the weather gets so cold the water develops a crust of ice, for these gators instinct kicks in. Observing them gives us a rare glimpse into how water-dwelling reptiles survive even when ponds and lakes freeze over.

Freezing Themselves In Place

The park owner says the alligators seem to sense when the water is nearing freezing temperatures. When that happens, they enter the reptile version of hibernation, called brumation. During brumation, alligators and other reptiles aren't actually asleep, they're just extremely sluggish. Their bodies slow down to conserve resources during severe cold.

In the days leading up to the weather change, reptiles eat more to build up high levels of glycogen in body tissue. They require less oxygen and move only infrequently.

However, even during brumation, they need to breathe. Alligators get still while the water freezes around them. Then, at just the right moment they poke their noses through and let the ice itself hold their nostrils above water.

At the park, the ice becomes several inches thick, and the freeze might last for days. Later, the ice thaws and the alligators show no signs of having spent days literally on ice.

CBS News posted this video on YouTube of the alligators freezing themselves in place.


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