As animals increase in size, common patterns of morphological and physiological scaling may require them to perform behaviors such as locomotion while experiencing a reduced capacity to generate muscle force and an increased risk of tissue failure. Large mammals are known to manage increased mechanical demands by using more upright limb posture. However, the presence of such size-dependent changes in limb posture has rarely been tested in animals that use non-parasagittal limb kinematics. Here, we used juvenile to subadult American alligators (total length 0.46–1.27 m, body mass 0.3–5.6 kg) and examined their limb kinematics, forces, joint moments and center of mass (CoM) to test for ontogenetic shifts in posture and limb mechanics. Larger alligators typically walked with a more adducted humerus and femur and a more extended knee. Normalized peak joint moments reflected these postural patterns, with shoulder and hip moments imposed by the ground reaction force showing relatively greater magnitudes in the smallest individuals. Thus, as larger alligators use more upright posture, they incur relatively smaller joint moments than smaller alligators, which could reduce the forces that the shoulder and hip adductors of larger alligators must generate. The CoM shifted nonlinearly from juveniles through subadults. The more anteriorly positioned CoM in small alligators, together with their compliant hindlimbs, contributes to their higher forelimb and lower hindlimb normalized peak vertical forces in comparison to larger alligators. Future studies of alligators that approach maximal adult sizes could give further insight into how animals with non-parasagittal limb posture modulate locomotor patterns as they increase in mass and experience changes in the CoM.

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