American-Alligator-1Scientific Name-Alligator mississippiensis

Conservation Status-Least concern

Appearance

The average female American alligator measures 2.6m (8.2ft). Males measure 3.4m (11.2m). Some males have reached 1,000pounds or 450kg. The American alligator has a broad, rounded snout which is relatively flat. Their nostrils face upwards allowing them to breathe while the rest of them is submerged. Their body is covered in scales. Their colouration ranges from light browns through to black on the top. Their underside is a cream colour. Juveniles have distinctive yellow stripes across their back.

The American alligator has a back which is covered in small spikes known as osteoderms. They have five toes on their front legs and four on the back legs.

Lifespan

American Alligators have an average life expectancy of 50 years.

Diet

The American Alligator is considered the apex predator within its habitat. The American alligator is a carnivore. American Alligators feed on fish, birds, invertebrates, frogs and mammals. There has also been recent evidence that alligators feed on fruits.  Alligators will swallow a small prey item whole. The larger items are shaken apart as the alligators teeth are not designed for cutting.

Habitat

American Alligators inhabit lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. Their range is around the coast from North Carolina and into Texas. They are the most cold-resistant of the crocodilians. This allows them to spread quite far into the North.

Reproduction

Courtship for American alligators begins in spring. At night the alligators gather for the ‘alligator dances.’ At these American-Alligator-2dances the alligators swim in pairs for hours and sometimes afterwards swim away to spots where they mate. The female builds a nest from vegetation where she will deposit a clutch of 35 to 50 eggs.

After 65 days the juveniles will begin to emerge. The temperature affects what sex the juveniles will be. A temperature above 93°F(34°C) will produce a male. Temperatures below 86°F(30°C). Temperatures between this range will produce a mix of males and females. Before hatching the juveniles will emit high-pitched sounds. This signals to the mother that it is time to remove the nesting material. The young gators live in pods. 80% of these will be picked off by predators. These predators include bobcats, otters , snakes, larger alligators, racoons and birds. Alligators will remain with their mothers for 2 years. They achieve sexual maturity at 10 years old. 

Quick facts

The alligator is the reptile emblem of three US states.

Alligators are being hunted for their meat and their skin

The American Alligator almost became extinct in the 1960s due to hunting but now has recovered to such a large number there are no concerns.

Scientists believe the American alligator has been around for 150 million years.

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