American Alligator
An American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) at the Kansas City Zoo.

American Alligator which is known scientifically as “Alligator mississippiensis” is colloquially referred to as common alligator or the alligator.

It is a large crocodile reptile that is native to the southeastern United States with a small population in Mexico.

American alligator is one of the two species existing in the genus Alligator in the Alligatoridae family. Worthy of note is the fact that it is larger than Chinese alligator which is the only species of living alligator.

Adult male American alligators measure 11.2- 15.1 ft and can weigh up to 453 kg. The females are shorter, measuring  8.5- 9.8 ft.

The American alligator dwells in freshwater wetlands such as swamps and cypress swamps from Tamaulipas in Mexico to southeastern and coastal North Carolina.

It differs from the sympatric American crocodile by its wider snout with overlapping jaws and darker coloring and is less salt water tolerant, but cooler than the American crocodile, which is only found in tropical climates.

Table of Contents

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name : Alligator Mississippiensis
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Alligatoridae
  • Genus: Alligator
  • Species: A. Mississippiensis

Characteristics

Local American alligators vary in length, width, response to differences in factors like diet, climate and rate of growth. We are going to consider the various features or characteristics of the American alligator.

Size

The American alligator is a relatively large species of crocodile. it is the second largest species in the Alligatoridae family on the average, just behind the black caiman. There are  significant variations in weight depending on age, health, length, time of year, and available food sources.

Similar to many other reptiles that spread in temperate zones, American alligators tend to reach smaller sizes at the northern end of their range, such as southern Arkansas, Alabama, and northern North Carolina.

Large adult American alligators are relatively tough and bulky when compared to other crocodiles of similar length.

For example, captive males between 3-4 m (9 feet 10 inches to 13 feet 1 inches) in height have been found to weigh 440 to 770 pounds, although captive specimens have been found to be wild due to poor hunting behavior Specimens can outweigh other stressors

Relation to Age

In all crocodiles, and unlike many mammals, which decrease in size with age, healthy American alligators can continue to grow throughout their lifetime, and the oldest specimens are the largest.

Very old, large male American alligators reach an anticipated maximum size of up to 15 feet 1 inches in length and weigh up to 453 kg, while females reach a maximum size of  9 feet 10 inches. In rare cases, a tall, old man can grow longer.

Sexual Dimorphism

While this is noticeable in very mature specimens, the sexual dimorphism in the size of this species is relatively small in crocodiles.

In the saltwater crocodile, for example, the females are, on average, only slightly larger 7 feet 10 inches in the American alligator, 8 feet 6 inches in the saltwater crocodile than female.

American alligators, but those of the mature males are 14 feet 1 inches to 17 feet 1 inches as opposed to 7 feet 10 inches to 13 feet 1 inches that of mature male.

American alligators expected to be significantly larger than male American alligators and, on average, nearly twice as long and at least four times as heavy as the female saltwater crocodiles of the same species.

 Given that female American alligators have a relatively higher survival rate at a young age and a When a large percentage of the given populations consist of immature or juvenile American alligators, relatively few are large mature males with the expected mature length of 11 feet 2 inches or more are typical easy to see.

Color

Adult American alligators can be, brown, gray, olive, or black, dorsally. However, they are, on average, some of the darkest modern crocodiles (although other members of the alligatorid family are also quite dark) and can be reliably differentiated from crocodiles by color because of their blacker back scales.

Their undersides are colored in cream. Some American alligators are absent or have an inhibited gene for melanin, making them albino. These American alligators are exceedingly rare and hard to find in the wild

They could only survive in captivity due to their  vulnerability to the sun and predators.

Distribution

American alligators are commonly found in the South-East of the United States, from South to Everglades National Park in Florida to the Great dismal swamp in Virginia, up to North Carolina, and then from the west to the southern tip of Texas.

They are also found in parts of Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, and finally Oklahoma. Various sightings of animals that had migrated north into West Tennessee in 2018,were confirmed.

Habitat

American Alligator commonly dwell in rivers, swamps, ponds and lakes. For more than ten years, a lone American alligator was found living in a river north of Atlanta, Georgia.

Young alligators and adult female alligators are also found in Carolina Bays as well as other seasonal wetlands.

Though American alligators prefer fresh water most times they are founding wandering into blackish water, also their salt water tolerant is very low compared to that of crocodile, this is because the salt glands of alligators do not function.

Through a survey carried out in north-central Florida, it was discovered that the makes preferred open lake water during spring where as the females prefer both swampy and open water areas.

In the summer, the females remain in the swamps to construct their nests and lay eggs while the males move to open water.

Behavior

Bite and mastication

American Alligator’s teeth is designed in such a way as to allow them grip prey though they can’t eat flesh like teeth of some other predators like felids and canids, and are dependent on their gizzard.

It’s teeth is so hard that it can break a turtle’s shell or a moderate size mammal bone.

Basking

American alligators mainly bask on the shore of the sea or ocean, but also perch on tree limbs sometimes. When disturbed they immediately retreat back by jumping into the sea.

American Alligator
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