American Alligator Facts

The American alligator, alligator mississippiensis, is the largest reptile in North America. They measure anywhere from 9.8 to 18 feet (3 to 5.5 meters), and weigh from 400 to 1,000 pounds (180 to 454 kilograms), with males being both longer and heavier than females. They are dark in color, with a broad, rounded snout, short legs, muscular long tail as well as a rough and scaled hide. An American alligator has approximately 80 teeth in its mouth at any one time. Whenever a tooth wears down or breaks off, a new one will soon grow to replace it. Since this happens so often, it is possible for an individual to go through anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.

The American alligator can be found in the southeastern United States. They almost exclusively inhabit freshwater lakes, swamps, rivers, ponds, wetlands and marshes (whether they are natural or man-made). Large males are solitary and territorial animals. The largest males and females will often defend the ‘‹Å”best’ territory, while smaller individuals will gather in large numbers in close proximity to one another. An American alligator is much more tolerant of others that are similar in size. They will communicate territory with one another by ‘‹Å”headslapping’ (raising its head and slapping it against the surface of the water) and ‘‹Å”jawclapping’ (opening its jaw in a biting motion at the surface of the water and then quickly closing it, resulting in a loud pop and splash) above or beneath the water.

The diet of an American alligator consists mainly of various fish, mammals, birds, turtles and other reptiles (including other alligators). A hungry gator however, will eat carrion (dead animals), pets and even humans (although this is extremely rare). They are ambush predators, sneaking up on their prey with only their eyes and noses showing above the surface. When they get close enough, they will attack their prey, snapping up small food in their mouths while larger prey is dragged into the water to drown and tear apart into more consumable pieces. The American alligator will do the majority of its hunting under the cover of night, in order to increase its chances of being seen by its intended victims. Adults are the apex predators within their territory, although the younger ones must watch out for birds, raccoons, bobcats, and larger gators.

Breeding season for the American alligator takes place from Mid-April to May. Males will often mate with many females, attracting mates by blowing bubbles, rubbing, touching and making sounds. A male and female will even test each others’ strength by trying to push the other into the water. Females will build a nest in a secure spot in or near the water where they will lay their clutch of 20 to 50 eggs. After incubating for 60 to 65 days, the young gators will hatch. Unlike most reptiles, an American alligator mother will protect her young for up to 2 years after hatching. If the little ones can survive long enough, then they can live to be up to 35 years old.

The American alligator is a rare case of an endangered species that has recovered spectacularly. It is still listed as threatened however, due to its resemblance to the American crocodile. Hopefully, the American alligator can continue its recovery and avoid extinction. After all, such a prehistoric creature deserves to thrive for many years.

Works Cited

“American Alligator” 27 April 2011

“American Alligator” 27 April 2011

“American Alligator” 27 April 2011

“American Alligator” 27 April 2011