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The American Alligator.  

Diagram of a American alligator.

Did you know...

  1.     Alligators have a wide flap of skin at the back of the throat that keeps water from getting in it's lungs while chewing underwater!
  2.     They have a third, sideways eyelid that protects their eyes underwater while still making it possible for them to see.
  3.     Mother alligators build a nest mound for her eggs that keeps the eggs at a constant tempature so they can hatch, then she watches the eggs, she  might care for them up to 2 years!
  4.     Alligators are cold blooded (they can not produce their own body heat) so, they need to bask in the sun to gain body heat.
  5.     They will hibernate in the winter in dens that they make, occasionally emerging during warmer weather.
  6.     An alligator's appetite starts slowing down at 80F and they will not eat in weather under 73.

The American alligator or Alligator mississippiensis, is a very unique animal. It's name is deprived from the Spanish word "al lagarto" or "the lizard". It is most commonly called a American alligator, Mississippi alligator, or just "gator".

        Diet: Alligators feed mostly at night. Younger alligators eat insects, shrimps, snails, fish, tadpoles, and frogs. Adult alligators prey on fish, birds, turtles, other reptiles, and mammals such as deer. They swallow it whole. Even though they have about 80 teeth, they are used for catching their prey, not for tearing, or chewing it.  If they lose their teeth they can even be regrown!

       Anatomy: Alligators are large carnivorous reptiles with four legs and a huge tail. This tail helps to propel the alligator through water, to make pools of water in the dry seasons, it is used as a weapon, and stores fat so that during the winter he has enough nourishment to survive.

       Habitat: Alligators live in freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes, and small bodies of water. They can handle a small amount of salinity, but just for a short period of time. They are occasionally found in mangrove swamps and brackish water. The American alligator is found in the southeastern part of the USA, and the Chinese alligator is found in the lower Yangtze River basin in China.

       Breeding: Females reach sexual maturity at an average of 5.9 feet, and both sexes communicate using aural, visual, tactile, and olfactory cues. Alligators breed in the spring, and a month later she lays between 20-50 eggs on a nest the female constructs made of mud, leaves, and twigs. The female makes her a mound of freshly torn up vegetation and mud at the start of summer when it is both warm and damp. The nesting site is usually situated upon the bank or on mats of vegetation so that the eggs are above the water level. If the eggs are flooded they will die within the first 12 hours of submergence. The female will use the same site each year, and they may be next to the females "alligator hole". The rotting vegetation in the nest warms the eggs, and the tempature will determine the sex of the eggs. If it is over 93 degrees Fahrenheit, they will become males, if it is lower than 86 degrees Fahrenheit it will become a female, and if it is between those it will become both. In two months they will hatch into hatchlings about 6 in. long. Then the female will protect the pod of babies for about a year, occasionally up to two or three years!