The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator or common alligator, is a large crocodilian reptile endemic to the Southeastern United States. It is one of two living species in the genus Alligator within the family Alligatoridae; it is larger than the other extant alligator species, the Chinese alligator.
Adult male American alligators measure 11 to 15 ft (3.4 to 4.6 m) in length, and can weigh up to 999 lb (453 kg). Females are smaller, measuring 8.5 to 10 ft (2.6 to 3.0 m) in length. The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to southeastern and coastal Virginia. It is distinguished from the sympatric American crocodile by its broader snout, with overlapping jaws and darker coloration, and is less tolerant of saltwater but more tolerant of cooler climates than the American crocodile, which is found only in tropical climates.
American alligators are apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates. They play an important role as ecosystem engineers in wetland ecosystems through the creation of alligator holes, which provide both wet and dry habitats for other organisms. Throughout the year, in particular during the breeding season, American alligators bellow to declare territory and locate suitable mates. Male American alligators use infrasound to attract females. Eggs are laid in a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. Young are born with yellow bands around their bodies and are protected by their mother for up to one year.
The conservation status of the American alligator is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Historically, hunting had decimated their population, and the American alligator was listed as an endangered species by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and the species was removed from endangered status in 1987. American alligators are now harvested for their skins and meat. The species is the official state reptile of three states: Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
|Approximate range of American alligator|
The American alligator was first classified by French zoologist François Marie Daudin as Crocodilus mississipiensis in 1801. In 1807 Georges Cuvier created the genus Alligator; the American alligator shares this genus with the Chinese alligator. They are grouped in the family Alligatoridae with the caimans. The superfamily Alligatoroidea includes all crocodilians (fossil and extant) that are more closely related to the American alligator than to either the Nile crocodile or the gharial.
Members of this superfamily first arose in the late Cretaceous, about 100–66 million years ago. Leidyosuchus of Alberta is the earliest known fossil, from the Campanian era 83 to 72 million years ago. Fossil alligatoroids have been found throughout Eurasia, because bridges across both the North Atlantic and the Bering Strait connected North America to Eurasia about 66 to 23 million years ago.
Alligators and caimans split in North America during the late Cretaceous, and the caimans reached South America by the Paleogene, before the closure of the Isthmus of Panama during the Neogene period, from about 23 to 2.58 million years ago. The Chinese alligator likely descended from a lineage that crossed the Bering land bridge during the Neogene. Fossils identical to the existing American alligator are found throughout the Pleistocene, from 2.5 million to 11.7 thousand years ago. In 2016, a Miocene (about 23 to 5.3 million years ago) fossil skull of an alligator was found at Marion County, Florida. Unlike the other extinct alligator species of in the same genus, the fossil skull was virtually indistinguishable from that of the modern American alligator. This alligator and the American alligator are now considered to be sister taxa, meaning that the Alligator mississippiensis lineage has existed in North America for over 8 million years.
The alligator's full mitochondrial genome was sequenced in the 1990s and it suggests the animal evolved at a rate similar to mammals and greater than birds and most cold-blooded vertebrates. However, the full genome, published in 2014, suggests that the alligator evolved much more slowly than mammals and birds.
Domestic American alligators range from long and slender to short and robust, possibly in response to variations in factors such as growth rate, diet, and climate.
The American alligator is a relatively large species of crocodilian. On average it is the second largest species in the family Alligatoridae, behind only the black caiman. Weight varies considerably depending on length, age, health, season and available food sources. Similar to many other reptiles that range expansively into temperate zones, American alligators from the northern end of their range, such as southern Arkansas, Alabama, and northern North Carolina, tend to reach smaller sizes. Large adult American alligators tend to be relatively robust and bulky compared to other similarly length crocodilians, for example captive males measuring 10 to 13 ft (3.0 to 4.0 m) were found to weigh 440 to 770 lb (200 to 350 kg) - although captive specimens may outweigh wild specimens due to lack of hunting behavior and other stressors.
As with all crocodilians, and as opposed to many mammals where size eventually diminishes with old age, healthy American alligators may continue to expand throughout their lives and the oldest specimens are the largest. Very old, large male American alligators reach an expected maximum size of up to 15 ft (4.6 m) in length, weighing up to 999 lb (453 kg), while females reach a maximum of 10 ft (3.0 m). On rare occasions, a large, old male may grow to an even greater length.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, larger males reaching 16.5 to 19.75 ft (5.03 to 6.02 m) have been reported. The largest reported individual size was a male killed in 1890 on Marsh Island, Louisiana, and reportedly measured at 19 ft (5.8 m) in length, but no voucher specimen was available, since the American alligator was left on a muddy bank after having been measured due to having been too massive to relocate. If the size of this animal was correct, it would have weighed approximately 2,200 lb (1,000 kg). In Arkansas a man killed an American alligator that was 13 ft 3 in (4.04 m) and 1,380 lb (630 kg). The largest American alligator ever killed in Florida was 17.5 ft (5.3 m), as reported by the Everglades National Park. The largest American alligator scientifically verified in Florida for the period from 1977 to 1993 was reportedly 14 ft (4.3 m) and weighed 1,042 lb (473 kg), although another specimen (size estimated from skull) may have measured 15 ft (4.6 m).
American alligators do not normally reach such extreme sizes. In mature males, most specimens grow up to about 11 ft (3.4 m) in length, and will weigh up to 795 lb (361 kg), while in females, the mature size is normally around 8.5 ft (2.6 m), with a body weight of up to 200 lb (91 kg). In Newnans Lake, Florida, adult males averaged 161 lb (73 kg) in mass and measured 8.1 ft (2.5 m) in length while adult females averaged 121.5 lb (55.1 kg) and measured 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m). In Lake Griffin State Park, Florida, adults weighed on average 128 lb (58 kg). Weight at sexual maturity per one study was stated as averaging 66 lb (30 kg) while adult weight was claimed as 350 lb (160 kg).
While noticeably sexual dimorphic in size in very mature specimens, the sexual dimorphism of this species is relatively modest amongst crocodilians. In the saltwater crocodile, for example, the females are only slightly larger at average (7 ft 10.5 in (2.400 m) in the American alligator, 8.5 ft (2.6 m) in the saltwater crocodile) than female American alligators, but the mature males, at 14 to 17 ft (4.3 to 5.2 m) on average as opposed to 8 to 13 ft (2.4 to 4.0 m) expected in mature male American alligators, are considerably bigger than male American alligators and at median are nearly twice as long as and at least four times as heavy as the female saltwater crocodiles of the same species. Given that female American alligators have relatively higher survival rates at an early age and a large percentage of given populations are comprised by immature or young breeding American alligators, relatively few large mature males of the expected mature length of 11 ft (3.4 m) or more are typically seen.
Dorsally, adult American alligators may be olive, brown, gray, or black in color, while their undersides are cream-colored. Some American alligators are missing an inhibited gene for melanin, which makes them albino. These American alligators are extremely rare and almost impossible to find in the wild. They could only survive in captivity, as they are very vulnerable to the sun and predators.
The teeth number 74–80. As American alligators grow and develop, the morphology of their teeth and jaws change significantly. Juveniles have small, needle-like teeth that become much more robust as well as narrow snouts that become more broad as the individuals develop. These morphological changes correspond to shifts in the alligators' diets, from smaller prey items such as fish and insects to larger prey items such as turtles, birds, and other large vertebrates. American alligators have broad snouts, especially in captive individuals. When the jaws are closed, the edges of the upper jaws cover the lower teeth which fit into the jaws' hollows. Like the spectacled caiman, this species has a bony nasal ridge, though it is less prominent.
Adult American alligators held the record as having the strongest laboratory-measured bite of any living animal, measured at up to 2,960 lbf (1,340 kgf; 13,200 N). This experiment had not been, at the time of the paper published, replicated in any other crocodilians, and the same laboratory was able to measure a greater bite force of 3,690 lbf (1,670 kgf; 16,400 N) in saltwater crocodiles; notwithstanding this very high biting force, the muscles opening the American alligator's jaw are quite weak, and the jaws can be held closed by hand or tape when an American alligator is captured. There is no significant difference between the bite forces of male and female American alligators of equal size.
When on land, an American alligator moves either by sprawling or walking, the latter involving the reptile lifting its belly off the ground. The sprawling of American alligators and other crocodylians is not similar to that of salamanders and lizards, being similar to walking. Therefore, the two forms of land locomotion can be termed the "low walk" and the "high walk". Unlike most other land vertebrates, American alligators increase their speed through the distal rather than proximal ends of their limbs. In the water, American alligators swim like fish, moving their pelvic regions and tails from side to side. During respiration, air flow is unidirectional, looping through the lungs during inhalation and exhalation; the American alligator's abdominal muscles can alter the position of the lungs within the torso, thus shifting the center of buoyancy, which allows the American alligator to dive, rise, and roll within the water.
American alligators are found in the wild in the southeastern United States, from the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina, south to Everglades National Park in Florida, and west to the southern tip of Texas as well as the northern border region of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. They are found in parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 2018 there were several confirmed sightings of animals that had moved north into West Tennessee. Some of these locations appear to be relatively recent introductions, with often small but reproductive populations.
They inhabit swamps, streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. A lone American alligator was spotted for over ten years living in a river north of Atlanta, Georgia. Females and juveniles are also found in Carolina Bays and other seasonal wetlands. While they prefer fresh water, American alligators may sometimes wander into brackish water, but are less tolerant of salt water than crocodiles, as the salt glands on their tongues do not function. One study of alligators in north-central Florida found the males preferred open lake water during the spring, while females used both swampy and open water areas. During summer, males still preferred open water, while females remained in the swamps to construct their nests and lay their eggs. Both sexes may den underneath banks or clumps of trees during the winter.
American alligators are less vulnerable to cold than American crocodiles. Unlike an American crocodile, which would immediately succumb to the cold and drown in water at 45 °F (7 °C) or less, an American alligator can survive in such temperatures for some time without displaying any signs of discomfort. This adaptiveness is thought to be the reason why American alligators are widespread further north than the American crocodile. In fact, the American alligator is found farther from the equator and is more equipped to handle cooler conditions than any other crocodilian. When the water begins to freeze, American alligators go into a period of brumation; they stick their snouts through the surface which allows them to breathe above the ice.
American alligators primarily bask on shore, but also can and will climb into and perch on tree limbs to bask if no shoreline is available. This is not often seen, since if disturbed they will quickly retreat back into the water by jumping from their perch.
American alligators modify wetland habitats, most dramatically in flat areas such as the Everglades, by constructing small ponds known as alligator holes. This behavior has qualified the American alligator to be considered a keystone species. Alligator holes retain water during the dry season and provide a refuge for aquatic organisms. Aquatic organisms that survive the dry season by seeking refuge in alligator holes are a source of future populations. The construction of nests along the periphery of alligator holes, as well as a buildup of soils during the excavation process, provide drier areas for other reptiles to nest and a place for plants that are intolerant of inundation to colonize. Alligator holes are an oasis during the Everglades dry season, so are consequently important foraging sites for other organisms. In the limestone depressions of cypress swamps, alligator holes tend to be large and deep, while those in marl prairies and rocky glades are usually small and shallow, and those in peat depressions of ridge and slough wetlands are more variable.
The teeth of the American alligator are designed to grip prey, but can not rip or chew flesh like teeth of some other predators (such as canids and felids), and depend on their gizzard instead to masticate their food. The American alligator is capable of biting though a turtle's shell or a moderately sized mammal bone.
American alligators have been documented using lures to hunt prey such as birds. This means they are among the first reptiles recorded to use tools. By balancing sticks and branches on their heads, American alligators are able to lure birds looking for suitable nesting material to kill and consume. This strategy, which is shared by the mugger crocodile, is particularly effective during the nesting season, in which birds are more likely to gather appropriate nesting materials.
Fish and other aquatic prey taken in the water or at the water's edge form the major part of American alligator's diet and may be eaten at any time of the day or night. Adult American alligators also spend considerable time hunting on land, up to 170 ft (50 m) from water, ambushing terrestrial animals on trailsides and road shoulders. Usually, terrestrial hunting occurs on nights with warm temperatures. When hunting terrestrial prey, American alligators may also ambush them from the edge of the water by grabbing them and pulling the prey into the water, the preferred method of predation of larger crocodiles.
Additionally, American alligators have recently been filmed and documented killing and eating sharks and rays; four incidents documented indicated that bonnetheads, lemon sharks, Atlantic stingrays and nurse sharks are components of the animal's diet. Sharks are also known to prey on American alligators in turn, indicating encounters between the two predators are more common than thought.
The American alligator is considered an apex predator throughout its range. They are opportunists and their diet is determined largely by both the size and age of the American alligator and the size and availability of prey. Most American alligators will eat a wide variety of animals, including invertebrates, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, amphibians, and mammals. Hatchlings mostly feed on invertebrates such as insects, insect larvae, snails, spiders, and worms. As they grow, American alligators gradually expand to larger prey. Once an American alligator reaches full size and power in adulthood, any animal living in the water or coming to the water to drink is potential prey. Most animals captured by American alligators are considerably smaller than the American alligator itself. Stomach contents show, among native mammals, muskrats and raccoons are some of the most commonly eaten species. In Louisiana, where introduced coypu are common, they are perhaps the most regular prey for adult American alligators, although only larger adult American alligators commonly eat this species.
Other animals may occasionally be eaten, even large deer or feral wild boars, but these are not normally part of the diet. American alligators will occasionally prey on large mammals, such as deer, but will usually do so when fish and smaller prey levels go down. Rarely, American alligators have been observed killing and eating bobcats, but such events are not common and have little effect on bobcat populations. Although American alligators have been listed as predators of West Indian manatees, very little evidence exists of such predation. In the 2000s, when invasive Burmese pythons occupied the Everglades, American alligators have been recorded preying on them, possibly controlling populations, thus preventing the invasive species from spreading northwards.
Occasionally, domestic animals, including dogs, cats, and calves, are taken as available, but are secondary to wild and feral prey. Other prey, including snakes, lizards, and various invertebrates, are eaten occasionally by adults. Water birds, such as herons and egrets, storks, waterfowl and large dabbling rails such as gallinules or coots, are taken when possible. Occasionally, unwary adult birds are grabbed and eaten by American alligators, but most predation on bird species occur with unsteady fledgling birds in late summer as the prey of American alligators, as fledgling birds attempt to make their first flights near the water's edge.
In 2013, American alligators and other crocodilians were reported to also eat fruit. Such behavior has been witnessed, as well as documented from stomach contents, with the American alligators eating such fruit as wild grapes, elderberries, and citrus fruits directly from the trees. The discovery of this unexpected part of the American alligator diet further reveals that American alligators may be responsible for spreading seeds from the fruit it digests across its habitat. Additionally, American alligators engage in what seems to be cooperative hunting.
The diet of adult American alligators from central Florida lakes was dominated by fish, highly opportunistically based upon local availability. In Lake Griffin, fish made up 54% of the diet by weight, with catfish being most commonly consumed while in Lake Apopka, fish made up 90% of the food and mostly shad were taken and in Lake Woodruff the diet was 84% fish and largely consists of bass and sunfish. Unusually in these regions, reptiles and amphibians were the most important non-piscivore prey, mostly comprised by turtles and water snakes. In southern Louisiana, crustaceans (largely crayfish and crabs) were found to be present in the southeastern American alligators but largely absent in the southwestern American alligator which consumed a relatively high proportion of reptiles, although fish were the most recorded prey for adult American alligators and adult males consumed a large portion of mammals.
Crocodilians are the most vocal of all reptiles and have a variety of different calls depending on the age, size, and gender of the animal. The American alligator can perform specific vocalizations to declare territory, signal distress, threaten competitors, and locate suitable mates. Juvenile American alligators can perform a high-pitched hatchling call (a "yelping" trait common to many crocodilian species' hatchling young) to alert their mothers when they are ready to emerge from the nest. Juveniles also make a distress call to alert their mothers if they are being threatened. Adult American alligators can growl, hiss, or cough to threaten others and declare territory.
Both males and females bellow loudly by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent, deep-toned roars in order to attract mates and declare territory. Male alligators are known to use infrasound during mating bellows. Bellowing is performed in a "head oblique, tail arched" posture. Infrasonic waves from a bellowing male American alligator can cause the surface of the water directly over and to either side of its back to literally "sprinkle", in what is commonly called the "water dance". Large bellowing "choruses" of American alligators during the breeding season are commonly initiated by females and perpetuated by males. Observers of large bellowing choruses have noted they are often felt more than they are heard due to the intense infrasound emitted by males. American alligators bellow in B flat (specifically "B♭1", defined as an audio frequency of 58.27 Hz), and bellowing choruses can be induced by tuba players, sonic booms, and large aircraft.
The breeding season begins in the spring. On spring nights, American alligators gather in large numbers for group courtship, in the aforementioned "alligator dances". The female builds a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water.
After the female lays her 20 to 50 white eggs, about the size of a goose egg, she covers them with more vegetation, which heats as it decays, helping to keep the eggs warm. This differs from Nile crocodiles, which lay their eggs in pits. The temperature at which American alligator eggs develop determines their sex (see temperature-dependent sex determination). Those eggs which are hatched at a temperature of 93 °F (34 °C) or more become males, while those at a temperature of 86 °F (30 °C ) or lower become female. The nests built on levees are warmer and thus produce males, while the cooler nests of wet marsh produce females. The female remains near the nest throughout the 65-day incubation period, protecting it from intruders. When the young begin to hatch — their "yelping" calls can sometimes even be heard just before hatching commences — the mother quickly digs them out and carries them to the water in her mouth, as some other crocodilian species are known to do.
The young are tiny replicas of adult American alligators with a series of yellow bands around their bodies that serve as camouflage. Hatchlings gather into pods and are guarded by their mother and keep in contact with her through their "yelping" vocalizations. Young American alligators eat small fish, frogs, crayfish, and insects. They are preyed on by large fish, birds, raccoons, and adult American alligators. Mother American alligators eventually become more aggressive towards their young, which encourages them to disperse. Young American alligators grow 3–8 in (7.6–20.3 cm) a year and reach adulthood at 6 ft (1.8 m).
Nutria were introduced into coastal marshes from South America in the mid-20th century, and their population has since exploded into the millions. They cause serious damage to coastal marshes and may dig burrows in levees. Hence, Louisiana has had a bounty to try to reduce nutria numbers. Large American alligators feed heavily on nutria, so American alligators may not only control nutria populations in Louisiana, but also prevent them spreading east into the Everglades. Since hunting and trapping preferentially take the large American alligators that are the most important in eating nutria, some changes in harvesting may be needed to capitalize on their ability to control nutria.
Recently, a population of Burmese pythons became established in Everglades National Park. Substantial American alligator populations in the Everglades may be a contributing factor in keeping the python populations low, preventing the spread of the species up north. While events of predation by Burmese pythons on young American alligators have been observed, no evidence of a net negative effect has been seen on overall American alligator populations.
American alligator predation on Florida panthers is rare, but has been documented. Such incidents usually involve a panther trying to cross a waterway or coming down to a swamp or river to get a drink. The American alligator is the only known natural predator of the panther. American alligator predation on American black bears has also been recorded.
American alligators play an important role in the restoration of the Everglades as biological indicators of restoration success. American alligators are highly sensitive to changes in the hydrology, salinity, and productivity of their ecosystems; all are factors that are expected to change with Everglades restoration. American alligators also may control the long-term vegetation dynamics in wetlands by reducing the population of small mammals, particularly coypu, which may otherwise overgraze marsh vegetation. In this way, the vital ecological service they provide may be important in reducing rates of coastal wetland losses in Louisiana. They may provide a protection service for water birds nesting on islands in freshwater wetlands. American alligators prevent predatory mammals from reaching island-based rookeries and in return eat spilled food and birds that fall from their nests. Wading birds appear to be attracted to areas with American alligators and have been known to nest at heavily trafficked tourist attractions with large numbers of American alligators, such as the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida.
Historically, hunting and habitat loss have severely impacted American alligator populations throughout their range, and whether the species would survive was in doubt. In 1967, the American alligator was listed as an endangered species (under a law that was the precursor Endangered Species Act of 1973), since it was believed to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state wildlife agencies in the South contributed to the American alligator's recovery. Protection under the Endangered Species Act allowed the species to recuperate in many areas where it had been depleted. States began monitoring their American alligator populations to ensure that they would continue to grow. In 1987, the USFWS removed the animal from the endangered species list, as it was considered to be fully recovered. The USFWS still regulates the legal trade in American alligators and their products to protect still endangered crocodilians that may be passed off as American alligators during trafficking.
American alligators are capable of killing humans but fatal attacks are fairly rare. Mistaken identity leading to an attack is always possible, especially in or near cloudy waters. American alligators are often less aggressive towards humans than larger crocodile species, a few of which (mainly the Nile and Saltwater crocodiles) may prey on humans with some regularity. American alligator bites are serious injuries due to the reptile's sheer bite force and risk of infection. Even with medical treatment, an American alligator bite may still result in a fatal infection.
As human populations increase, and as they build houses in low-lying areas or fish or hunt near water, incidents are inevitable where American alligators intrude, or at least appear to intrude, on human life. Since 1948, 257 documented attacks on humans in Florida (about five incidents per year) have been reported, of which an estimated 23 resulted in death. Only nine fatal attacks occurred in the United States throughout the 1970s–1990s, but American alligators killed 12 people between 2001 and 2007. In May 2006, American alligators killed three Floridians in less than a week. There have been at least 28 fatal attacks by American alligators in the United States since 1970.
Since the late 1880s, alligator wrestling has been a source of entertainment for some. Created by the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes prior to the arrival of Europeans, this tourism tradition continues to persist despite criticism from animal rights activists.
Today, alligator farming is a large, growing industry in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. These states produce a combined annual total of some 45,000 alligator hides. Alligator hides bring good prices and hides in the 6 to 7-ft range have sold for $300 each. The market for alligator meat is growing, and about 300,000 pounds (140,000 kg) of meat is produced annually. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, raw alligator meat contains roughly 200 Calories (840 kJ) per 3-oz (85-g) serving, of which 27 Calories (130 kJ) come from fat.
"Gators" has been the nickname of the University of Florida's sports teams since 1911. In that year, a printer made a spur-of-the-moment decision to print an alligator emblem on a shipment of the school's football pennants. The mascot stuck, perhaps because the team captain's nickname was Gator. Allegheny College and San Francisco State University both have Gators as their mascots as well.
The Gator Bowl is a college football game held in Jacksonville annually since 1946, with Gator Bowl Stadium hosting the event until the 1993 edition. The Gatornationals is a NHRA drag race held at the Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville since 1970.
"We want to hit the B flat two octaves below middle C, " Mickelsen reminded his young assistant. "At 57 hertz. That's what that old scientific report advised...BLAAAA!...Though only a few clouds scudded across the sky, we heard what sounded like thunder in the distance. It was a randy male American alligator, turned on by tuba, telling the world that he was a stud...He lifted his upper body out of the water while lowering the middle and raising his tail. Though he barely moved, a droplet spray exploded from the water covering his back. "The water dance!" Tim Williams cried. Toxic let loose a roar that shook the earth.
An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. The two living species are the American alligator (A. mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (A. sinensis). Additionally, several extinct species of alligator are known from fossil remains. Alligators first appeared during the Oligocene epoch about 37 million years ago.The name "alligator" is probably an anglicized form of el lagarto, the Spanish term for "the lizard", which early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator. Later English spellings of the name included allagarta and alagarto.Alligator Creek (Little Ocmulgee River tributary)
Alligator Creek is a 48.6-mile-long (78.2 km) tributary of the Little Ocmulgee River in the U.S. state of Georgia.
Alligator Creek was named after the American alligator.Alligator wrestling
Alligator wrestling is an attraction, that later evolved into a sport, that began as a hunting expedition for Native Americans. It has been described as "alligator capturing techniques".Alligatoridae
The family Alligatoridae of crocodylians includes alligators and caimans.Alligatoroidea
Alligatoroidea is a superfamily of crocodilians that evolved in the Late Cretaceous period. Cladistically, Alligatoroidea is Alligator mississippiensis (the American alligator) and all crocodylians more closely related to A. mississippiensis than to either Crocodylus niloticus (the Nile crocodile) or Gavialis gangeticus (the gharial).American crocodile
The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas, with populations present from South Florida and the coasts of Mexico to as far south as Peru and Venezuela.
The habitat of the American crocodile consists largely of coastal areas. It is also found in river systems, but tends to prefer salinity, resulting in the species congregating in brackish lakes, mangrove swamps, lagoons, cays, and small islands. Other crocodiles also have tolerance to saltwater due to salt glands underneath the tongue, but the American crocodile is the only species other than the saltwater crocodile to commonly live and thrive in saltwater. They can be found on beaches and small island formations without any freshwater source, such as some of the many cays and islets across the Bahamas and the Caribbean. They are also found in hypersaline lakes; one of the largest known populations inhabits the Lago Enriquillo.The American is one of the larger crocodile species. Males can reach lengths of 6.1 m (20 ft 0 in), weighing up to 907 kg (2,000 lb). On average, mature males are more in the range of 2.9 to 4.1 m (9 ft 6 in to 13 ft 5 in) in length weighing up to about 400 kg (880 lb). As with other crocodile species, females are smaller; rarely exceeding 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in) in length even in the largest-bodied population.Like any other large crocodilian, the American crocodile is potentially dangerous to humans, though it tends not to be as aggressive as some other species.Brevirostres
Brevirostres is a clade of crocodilians that includes alligatoroids and crocodyloids. Brevirostres are crocodilians with short snouts, and are distinguished from the long, slender-snouted gharials. It is defined phylogenetically as the last common ancestor of Alligator mississippiensis (the American alligator) and Crocodylus niloticus (the Nile crocodile) and all of its descendants. Below is a cladogram showing the phylogenetic relations of Brevirostres from Brochu (1997):
Brevirostres was first named by Karl Alfred von Zittel in 1890. Von Zittel considered Gavialis, the gharial, to be closely related to Tomistoma, the false gharial, and excluded them from the group. Tomistoma, as its name implies, is traditionally not considered closely related to Gavialis, but instead classified as a crocodylid. Under this classification, all members of Brevirostres are brevirostrine, or short-snouted. Recent molecular analyses support von Zittel's classification in placing Tomistoma as a close relative of Gavialis. If this classification is accepted, Brevirostres can be considered a junior synonym of Crocodylia. If Brevirostres is defined as the last common ancestor of all brevirostrines -including Tomistoma- and all of its descendants, the common ancestor's descendants would include Gharial, and thus all crocodylians.Burmese pythons in Florida
Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are native to Southeast Asia. However, since the end of the 20th century, they have become an established breeding population in South Florida. Although Burmese pythons were first sighted in Everglades National Park in the 1980s, they were not officially recognized as a reproducing population until 2000. Since then, the number of python sightings has exponentially increased with over 300 sightings from 2008 to 2010.Burmese pythons prey on a wide variety of birds, mammals, and crocodilian species occupying the Everglades. Pronounced declines in a number of mammalian species have coincided spatially and temporally with the proliferation of pythons in southern Florida, indicating the already devastating impacts upon native animals. Although the low detectability of pythons makes population estimates difficult, most researchers propose that at least 30,000 and upwards of 300,000 pythons likely occupy southern Florida and that this population will only continue to grow. The importation of Burmese pythons was banned in the United States in January 2012 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.Caiman
A caiman is a crocodilian alligatorid belonging to the subfamily Caimaninae, one of two primary lineages within Alligatoridae, the other being alligators.Chinese alligator
The Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis, simplified Chinese: 扬子鳄; traditional Chinese: 揚子鱷; pinyin: yángzǐ'è), also known as the Yangtze alligator, China alligator, or historically the muddy dragon, is a critically endangered crocodilian endemic to China. It and the American alligator are the only living species in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. Dark gray or black in color with a fully armored body, the Chinese alligator grows to 1.5–2.1 metres (5–7 ft) in length and weighs 36–45 kilograms (80–100 lb) as an adult. It brumates in burrows in winter and is nocturnal in summer. Mating occurs in early summer, with females most commonly producing 20–30 eggs, which are smaller than those of any other crocodilian. The species is an opportunistic feeder, primarily eating fish and invertebrates. A vocal species, adults bellow during the mating season and young vocalize to communicate with their parents and other juveniles. Captive specimens have reached age 70, and wild specimens can live to over 50.
Living in bodies of fresh water, the Chinese alligator's range is restricted to six regions in the province of Anhui, as well as possibly the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Originally living as far away from its current range as Japan, the species previously had a wide range and population, but beginning in 5000 BC, multiple threats, such as habitat destruction, caused the species' population and range to decline. The population in the wild was about 1000 in the 1970s, decreased to below 130 in 2001, and grew after 2003, with its population being about 300 as of 2017. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, multiple conservation actions have been taking place for this species. Several breeding facilities, both in China and foreign countries, have bred specimens in captivity and sometimes released them back into the wild.
The Chinese alligator has been a part of Chinese literature since the third century. In the late 1200s, Marco Polo became the first person outside of China to write about it. In some writings, the Chinese alligator has been associated with the Chinese dragon. Many pieces of evidence suggest that the Chinese alligator was the inspiration for the Chinese dragon.Crocodilia
Crocodilia (or Crocodylia) is an order of mostly large, predatory, semiaquatic archosaurian reptiles, known as crocodilians. They first appeared 95 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period (Cenomanian stage) and are the closest living relatives of birds, as the two groups are the only known survivors of the Archosauria. Members of the order's total group, the clade Pseudosuchia, appeared about 250 million years ago in the Early Triassic period, and diversified during the Mesozoic era. The order Crocodilia includes the true crocodiles (family Crocodylidae), the alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae), and the gharial and false gharial (family Gavialidae). Although the term 'crocodiles' is sometimes used to refer to all of these, crocodilians is a less ambiguous vernacular term for members of this group.
Large, solidly built, lizard-like reptiles, crocodilians have long flattened snouts, laterally compressed tails, and eyes, ears, and nostrils at the top of the head. They swim well and can move on land in a "high walk" and a "low walk", while smaller species are even capable of galloping. Their skin is thick and covered in non-overlapping scales. They have conical, peg-like teeth and a powerful bite. They have a four-chambered heart and, somewhat like birds, a unidirectional looping system of airflow within the lungs, but like other reptiles they are ectotherms.
Crocodilians are found mainly in lowlands in the tropics, but alligators also live in the southeastern United States and the Yangtze River in China. They are largely carnivorous, the various species feeding on animals such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, and mammals; some species like the Indian gharial are specialised feeders, while others like the saltwater crocodile have generalised diets. Crocodilians are typically solitary and territorial, though cooperative feeding does occur. During breeding, dominant males try to monopolise available females. Females lay eggs in holes or in mounds and, unlike most other reptiles, care for their hatched young.
Some species of crocodilians are known to have attacked humans. The largest number of attacks comes from the Nile crocodile. Humans are the greatest threat to crocodilian populations through activities that include hunting and habitat destruction, but farming of crocodilians has greatly reduced unlawful trading in wild skins. Artistic and literary representations of crocodilians have appeared in human cultures around the world since at least Ancient Egypt. The earliest known mention of the story that crocodiles weep for their victims was in the 9th century; it was later spread by Sir John Mandeville in 1400 and then by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century and early 17th century.Crocodyloidea
The Crocodyloidea superfamily of crocodilians evolved in the Late Cretaceous period. Cladistically, it is defined as Crocodylus niloticus (the Nile crocodile) and all crocodylians more closely related to C. niloticus than to either Alligator mississippiensis (the American alligator) or Gavialis gangeticus (the gharial).Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge
The Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is a 64,902 acre (262.65 km2) wildlife refuge located in south-central Arkansas in Ashley, Bradley, and Union counties. It is the world's largest green tree reservoir.
The Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is a wetlands complex near Lake Jack Lee, which is located on the confluence of the Saline and Ouachita Rivers. It is made up of various streams, creeks, lakes, and sloughs.
In addition to the wetland lowlands the refuge has areas of pine and upland hardwood forests. The refuge is home to migratory and resident waterfowl as well as marsh and water birds. The park is also home to a large population of red-cockaded woodpeckers and is a habitat of the bald eagle and American alligator.
The refuge also contains over 200 Native American archaeological sites, primarily from the Caddo tribe that lived in the area as long as 5,000 years ago. These sites include the remains of seasonal fishing camps, ceremonial plazas, temple mounds and large villages containing as many as 200 structures.
The refuge was created in 1970.Globidonta
Globidonta is a clade of alligatoroids that includes alligators, caimans, and closely related extinct forms. It is defined as a stem-based clade including Alligator mississippiensis (the American Alligator) and all forms more closely related to it than to Diplocynodon. The group's fossil range extends back into the Late Cretaceous with early alligatoroids such as Albertochampsa and Brachychampsa. Extinct globidontans were particularly common in North America and Eurasia, and their modern range also includes South America. The oldest known globidontan is Acynodon from France, which is also the most basal.Basal globidontans are characterized by their blunt snouts and bulbous teeth. Modern globidontans have flattened snouts and more conical teeth, and are seen as more generalized than earlier globidontans. Generalized forms are usually expected to be ancestral to more specialized forms rather than descendants of them, so it is unusual for basal members of the group to appear specialized. This seems to conflict with the "Law of the Unspecialized" first proposed by Edward Drinker Cope in 1894. Under the Law of the Unspecialized, morphological change is always directed toward specialization, and specialized forms can never become "unspecialized" again. This pattern of change, while not seen in globidontans, can be observed in basal members of Alligatoroidea and Crocodyloidea.
Flat-snouted globidontans occurred two times in the evolution of the clade: once in caimans and once in alligators. Alligator sinensis, the Chinese Alligator, has a snout that is somewhat blunt and could be considered specialized. However, its snout is not nearly as blunt as those of more basal globidontans such as Albertachampsa.If the last common ancestor of Diplocynodon and globidontans was more like Diplocynodon, it would have had a generalized snout shape. It is also possible that the generalized form of Diplocynodon may also have arisen from a specialized blunt-snouted ancestor. Baryphracta, a diplocynodontine closely related to Diplocynondon, has a blunt snout and may have been similar in appearance to such an ancestor.Goniopholis
Goniopholis is an extinct genus of goniopholidid crocodyliform that lived in Europe and Africa during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. Being semi-aquatic it is very similar to modern crocodiles. It ranged from 2–4 metres in length, and would have had a very similar lifestyle to the American alligator or Nile crocodile.Lake Griffin State Park
Lake Griffin State Park is a Florida State Park located two miles (3 km) north of Leesburg, in Fruitland Park and 30 miles (48 km) south of Ocala on U.S. Highway 441. It is home to one of the state's largest live oak trees. The park is unique in connecting to Lake Griffin, the Ocklawaha River and thence to the Harris Chain of Lakes, and is made up of 577.63 acres (2.33758 km²) of swampland and hardwood upland.
Activities include boating and canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. Among the wildlife of the park are osprey, bald eagle, blue heron, anhinga, ibis, American alligator, and river otter.
Amenities include a full-facility campground, a half-mile nature trail, a boat ramp that provides access to the Dead River, and a playground for small children as well as kayak and canoe rentals, a forty site campground, and a picnic area. The park is open from 8:00 am until sundown year-round.Muja (alligator)
Muja, an American alligator at Belgrade Zoo in Serbia, is the oldest living alligator in the world. Muja became the world’s oldest American alligator in captivity when another of its species, Čabulītis, died in Riga Zoo in Latvia in 2007.Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is one of seven refuges in the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Mississippi. Established in 1978, Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 38,697 acres (156.60 km2). Included in those acres is one of the largest blocks (21,000 acres) of bottomland forest in the lower Mississippi River alluvial floodplain. The upland areas or ridges often crest at no more than one foot above swamp areas, and contain nuttall, willow and water oaks and other species while overcup oak, bitter pecan and ash dominate the transition zone from swamp to upland. Additional habitat types consist of reforested and agricultural areas.
In addition to providing resting and feeding areas for over 100,000 wintering waterfowl annually, the refuge also provides habitat for 200 species of neotropical migratory songbirds. Resident species making their home among the woodlands, sloughs, and reforested areas include the American alligator, white-tail deer, otter, swamp rabbit, wild turkey, squirrel, and other various small fur-bearers such as mink and raccoon.Reptile centre
A reptile centre (or reptile center) is typically a facility devoted to keeping living reptiles, educating the public about reptiles, and serving as a control centre for collecting reptiles that turn up in populated areas. Most are public-access, run as private business or state-sponsored. Some centres work with venomous reptiles as venom research labs. Others are simply privately run zoos devoted to solely to reptiles or are incorporated into larger zoos or organizations.
One example is the reptile centre in Alice Springs, Australia, devoted to indigenous reptiles. Many are collected from local homes, yards, or from areas about to be burned under the controlled burning program to keep summer grass fires from threatening the local homes. Most of the reptiles end up being relocated to uninhabited areas. The Alice Springs centre also doubles as a snake call centre, with the owner and staff coming out to homes to remove venomous snakes from inconvenient places.
In America, Black Hills Reptile Gardens is the nation's largest collection of reptiles. It is located at Rapid City, South Dakota in the heart of the Black Hills. It was founded in 1937.
Also in the United States, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is the only complete collection of the world's crocodilians. In 1893 the St. Augustine Alligator Farm started as a small facility, displaying the American Alligator. It is accredited with the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums).
A Burmese Python at the reptile centre Serpent Safari in Gurnee, Illinois was billed as the heaviest living snake in captivity. In 2005, it weighed 183 kilograms (403 lb) at a length of 8.2 metres (27 ft). The snake was named Baby.
Extant Crocodilian species
Game animals and shooting in North America