Alligator Facts - Habits and habitats
Alligators remain almost unchanged for the past 180 million years. They have successfully adapted to their ever changing environment, this is a tribute to their capabilities as a top predator.
Alligators are crocodilians in the genus Alligator of the Alligatoridae family, which also includes Caimans. Their name alligator is an anglicized form of the Spanish word "el lagarto" (lizard), which was what early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator.
Alligators are found only in the southeastern United States and in China's Yangtze River valley. Male American alligators have, on average, 3.5 meters (12 feet) long and 270 Kg, while females are 2.5 meters (8 feet) long and weigh about half of the males. In fact, males may be larger than that, and it is not uncommon to reach 500 Kg and 5 meters. Despite his size the American Alligator is not considered to be a man-eater. In the wild, alligators naturally fear man. The Chinese alligator is much smaller, only reaching a maximum length of 2 meters (7 feet)
Alligators as their crocodile cousins, are opportunistic predators, feeding on almost anything they can grab in, or near the water. When they are young they eat small fish, insects, snails, and crustaceans. When they grow they take increasingly larger prey , which includes bigger fish such as gar, turtles, various mammals, birds, and other reptiles.
Alligator attacks on humans rarely occur, but there have been recorded several fatal alligator attacks in Florida. Several of these attacks involve swimmers or small children , nevertheless virtually all attacks can be imputed to human mistake.
Alligators are freshwater animals and can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers and irrigation canals. Being cold-blooded reptiles, they prefer warm climates. Alligators can, for brief periods of time ,tolerate salt water, as they don't have the salt-extracting glands of crocodiles .
The average lifespan of an alligator is approximately 35 to 50 years in the wild, however In captivity they can probably live much longer, reaching up to 60 - 80 years.
Alligator Facts - Reproduction
Male and female alligators reach sexual maturity at about 10 to 12 years, by then they are about 2 meters long (7 feet). Alligators reproduce in spring. The males will fight each other to establish territories in which they can have priority access to females. The female builds a nest of mud and vegetation with approximately 1 meter high by 2 meters in diameter. She lays 30 to 50 eggs and buries them in decaying vegetation. The eggs are white, hard and slightly larger than a large chicken egg.
The nest provides heat - it's like a big compost pile that heats up naturally because of decaying vegetation. Alligator eggs are influenced by temperature. If the temperature is near 26 ° C, the hatchlings will be female. If the temperature is below 32 °, they will be male. At temperatures between these two values, the offspring may be of either sex.
The female protects the nest from predators such as raccoons, while the eggs are hatching. When the eggs hatch after between 40 to 65 days, the offspring make a high pitch noise and the mother digs them out of the nest. The offspring and mother stay close to the nest and the mother will protect them. This protective behavior is very rare in modern reptiles, but we know that it was common in certain species of dinosaurs. The most dangerous are first couple of years before an alligator reaches a length of 1,2 meters (4 feet ), because they fall prey to many other animals and bigger alligators.
Alligator Facts - Species
The whole Alligatoridae family including caimans
Did you know?
The Cuban crocodile is considered critically endangered only about 4,000 remain.