Alligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae
American Alligator (alligator Mississippiensis): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: A large reptile, the American alligator has a black or dark grayish green back and tail with a white belly. Young alligators have numerous yellow markings on the back and tail. American alligators are sometimes confused with American crocodiles, but the crocodile has a snout that becomes thinner at the tip. The alligator's snout remains wide. Adult American alligators usually grow to 8 to 13 feet (2.4 to 4 meters) long, but some giants may reach 19 feet (5.8 meters) or more.
Geographic range: American alligators live in the United States from North Carolina down to Florida and west to Texas.
Habitat: American alligators make their homes in still or slow-moving freshwater areas, including marshes and swamps, rivers, and lakes. Occasionally, they make their way into the swimming pools of people who live near their natural habitat.
Diet: Meat-eaters, they will dine on almost any animal they come across, including turtles, fishes, mammals, and sometimes smaller alligators. They swallow most smaller prey whole. For larger animals, however, the alligators first drown the victim, then chomp off mouthfuls of flesh.
Behavior and reproduction: American alligators live in groups, with great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children often sharing the same area. During the spring breeding season, the males try to interest the females by bumping softly against them and calling out with loud bellows. The females bellow, too, but much less often and not quite as loudly. After mating, the female lays 36 to 48 eggs, which hatch about two months later. She helps the young out of the nest and to the water. The family stays together for two or three months, and sometimes up to three years. The young alligators are ready to become parents themselves when they reach about 10 years old. American alligators live to be 50 years old or older.
American alligators and people: In many areas, people like alligators because they bring money to the community through tourism, but at the same time dislike them because the reptiles sometimes eat pets or have to be removed from golf courses and swimming pools. Now that people have begun to move farther and farther into the alligators' habitat, attacks on humans have also become much more common. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligator attacks on humans in that state from 1948 to 2003 numbered 326 and resulted in 13 deaths.
Conservation status: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) does not consider this species to be at risk, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists it as Threatened or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. ∎
- Alligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae - Common Caiman (caiman Crocodilus): Species Accounts
- Alligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae - Conservation Status
- Other Free Encyclopedias
Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesAlligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, American Alligator (alligator Mississippiensis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, CAIMANS ALLIGATORS AND PEOPLE