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Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

alligator
Click on the picture to open a larger photo.
Alligators have been around since the age of dinosaurs. They can grow up to 20 feet long and can reach weights of more than half a ton. Wild alligators have a natural fear of people, however, when people feed them they associate humans with food and lose their fear. It is very important not to feed or approach alligators. Alligators should be treated with respect and viewed from a safe distance!

Alligators are cold-blooded animals. This means that their body temperatures adjust to surrounding temperatures. When cold, they may become inactive and will search for a sunny area or dig down into the mud under water. Alligators are generally more active when the weather is warm.

Only the alligator's head and part of its back are visible above the water when an alligator swims at the surface. This makes it easier for an alligator to approach its prey undetected. Foods an alligator may eat include fish, turtles, mammals, birds, dead animals and other alligators.

How do you identify an
alligator from a crocodile?

South Florida, along the southern shores of Everglades National Park, is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together (The National Park Service). Alligators are commonly seen in freshwater areas throughout Florida and throughout the Everglades. The alligator is Florida's official state reptile.

Alligators play an important role in Everglades ecology. Their movement through swamps and marshes opens channels for other aquatic animals to use. Also, in the winter’s dry season, alligators find depressions in the landscape and clear out the mud and vegetation with their feet and snout. These "gator holes" form small ponds, which serve as a moist habitat for the alligators as well as other small critters such as fish, turtles, snails, snakes and frogs. Waterbirds and mammals visit these ponds for food and drink. (Carmichael and Williams, 1991)

crayons Go to the alligator Coloring Page


References:
Carmichael, Pete and Winston Williams. "Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians." Tampa, Florida: World Publications, 1991.

"Everglades National Park." The National Park Service. Internet address: http://www.nps.gov/ever/.



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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: 15 January, 2013 @ 12:44 PM (KP)