Scienctific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
The American Alligator is one of the two living species of Alligator, a genus within the family Alligatoridae. The American Alligator is only native to the Southeastern United States, where it inhabits wetlands that frequently overlaps with human-populated areas. It is larger than the other extant alligator species, the Chinese Alligator.
The American Alligator has a large, slightly rounded body, with thick limbs, a broad head, and a very powerful tail. They generally have a olive brown, gray or nearly black color with a creamy white underside. Adult male alligators are typically 13 to 14.7 feet long (3.96 to 4.48 meters), while adult females average 9.8 feet (2.99 meters). Male alligators may grow to 454.5 kg (1000 lb) and females can grow to 72 kg (160 lbs). The tail, which accounts for half of the alligator's total length, is primarily used for aquatic propulsion. The tail can also be used as a weapon of defense when an alligator feels threatened. They have five claws on each front foot and four on each rear foot.
Alligators are mostly found in the Southeastern United States, from Merchants Millpond State Park in North Carolina south to Everglades National Park in Florida and west to the southern tip of Texas. They are also found in the U.S. states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Alligators live in wetlands, and this is the vital habitat that holds the key to their continued long-term survival.
Alligators eat fish, birds, turtles, snakes, mammals and amphibians. Hatchlings, however, are restricted to smaller prey items like: Insects and larvae, snails, spiders and worms make-up a big portion of a hatchling's diet. They will also eat small fish at any opportunity. Once an alligator reaches adulthood, any animal living in the water or coming to water to drink is potential prey.
The breeding season begins in the spring. Although alligators have no vocal cords, males bellow loudly to attract mates and warn off other males during this time by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent, deep-toned roars.
The female builds a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. After she lays her 20 to 50 white, goose-egg-sized eggs, she covers them under more vegetation, which, like mulch, heats as it decays, helping to keep the eggs warm. Alligators reach breeding maturity at about 8 to 13 years of age.