A large alligator captured in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp had a tooth growing through its nose — not unlike the beginnings of a horn.
The odd phenomenon was discovered when researchers from the University of Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab were tagging the nearly 10-foot alligator with a satellite tracker.
“One of the teeth on his lower jaw has actually grown up through the upper jaw and is visible when his mouth is closed,” the lab wrote Nov. 22 on Facebook.
“This phenomenon is unusual but has been documented before, even by our field team. It does not affect his ability to survive in any way and he most likely doesn’t even notice it, now that it is healed.”
A photo shows the alligator ended up with the equivalent of a third nostril, leaving commenters on social media wondering how much dental agony it had endured.
“What a painful condition,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “I imagine that has also left a hole in his nasal cavity. Poor guy!”
Researchers didn’t say if the tooth is still growing.
The alligator was given the code name BKL before being released back into the swamp.
BKL is 9-feet, 10-inches and weighed about 260 pounds, officials said. Adult males reach nearly 15 feet in the state, according to the Georgia Aquarium.
American alligators have between 74 and 80 teeth, and “new teeth grow to replace lost or damaged ones,” the aquarium says.
“An alligator’s teeth work very similar to that of sharks, in that they are constantly regrowing their teeth to replace the old ones,” the lab wrote on Facebook.
“The cap of the tooth will fall off and a new one will be pushed to the surface. An alligator can go through as many as 3,000 teeth in its lifetime.”
He was caught near Okefenokee Adventures in Folkston, Georgia, a backcountry camping and boating operation near the federal wildlife refuge.
“We believe that this animal may be a dominant male in this area,” the lab said.
The Coastal Ecology Lab has fitted satellite trackers on 15 alligators, and is following their movements to determine range and mating habits.
This story was originally published November 24, 2021 10:28 AM.