Thursday, November 4, 2010
The American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis)is a spectacular reptile. They are very well adapted to their environment and belong to group of reptiles (crocodilians) that have lived nearly unchanged for 150 million yrs, surviving the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. Males can reach lengths anywhere from 10-15ft while females are a still impressive 9ft. They can weigh upwards of 1000lbs and live 35 to 50 yrs. This mighty animal was once near extinction but thanks to human help it is thriving in its native habitat (the wetlands of the American Southeast, mainly Florida and Louisiana) with a wild population of over 1 million. Alligator farms help protect the wild population from hunting by growing "gators" their skins and meat (which is quite tasty if I do say so myself- just like chicken!). They are opportunistic feeders eating anything they can catch, and can stay submerged for quite a while looking like a log so I wouldn't advise swimming in just any deep south waterway you come across. As adults they may be top predators but as hatchlings they can be food for birds, raccoons and other animals. They have a very interesting method of sex determination. Mothers lay eggs in mounds of basically compost. If the temperature is 86 degrees F or less you get females, and if it is 93 degrees f or more you get males. This leads to a sex ratio of 5 females to 1 male (not to bad!). You might believe American Alligators will abandon their young, but this is not true. The mother guards the nest ferociously, and when they hatch she carries the young to the water where she usually protects them for about 1 yr. The pictures above are some I took in florida. One shows an alligator in the water. Ther other shows a mother gaurding her nest.