geer > 2000 > poster > thermoregulation of the american alligator in the everglades
Thermoregulation of the American Alligator in the Everglades
Poster presented December 2000, at the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference
H. F. Percival 1, S. R. Howarter 1, K. G. Rice 2, C. R. Morea 1, 3, C. L. Abercrombie 4, K. Portier 5, A. G. Finger 1
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Fourteen adult alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from two study sites in the Florida Everglades, 10 from Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A North and 4 from Shark River Slough, Everglades National Park, were implanted intraperitoneally with data loggers that recorded core body temperature (Tb) simultaneously at 72 minute intervals. Alligators were recaptured one year later and data loggers removed. Alligator Tbs were high and stable in summer. Fall Tb decreased corresponding to a decrease in ambient temperatures. Winter Tb remained low, occasionally elevating to activity levels. In spring, daily minimum Tb increased as ambient temperatures increased. However, unlike fall, spring Tb was elevated to activity levels on nearly a daily basis. The increased frequency of elevated Tb in spring corresponds with both the breeding season and the peak of the dry season. Elevated Tb is likely aid sperm and egg production, as well as prey digestion. Since the Everglades is normally a nutrient poor environment, increasing the rate of digestion while prey are concentrated in pools by the decreased water levels allow acquisition of energy. Further examination of annual Tb patterns of Everglades alligators across seasonal hydropatterns may reveal information about their physiology and ecology.
In South Florida, alligators face ambient temperature patterns unlike elsewhere in their range. The consistently high temperatures lead to increased metabolic cost.
Alligators in the Everglades have reduced length to weight ratio, reduced total length, and delayed onset of sexual maturity compared with other parts of their range. The reason for this poor condition is currently suspected to be a combination of low food availability and sustained high temperatures.
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SOFIA Project: American Alligator Distribution, Thermoregulation, and Biotic Potential Relative to Hydroperiod in the Everglades (a submodel within the ATLSS Project)
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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last updated: 15 January, 2013 @ 12:42 PM (KP)