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Encyclopedia > American Alligator

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Alligator mississippiensis
An American Alligator in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, in Powell, Ohio
An American Alligator in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, in Powell, Ohio
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Crocodilia
Family: Alligatoridae
Genus: Alligator
Species: A. mississippiensis
Binomial name
Alligator mississippiensis
(Daudin, 1801)

American Alligator range map

The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is one of the two living species of Alligator, a genus within the family Alligatoridae. The American Alligator is native only to the southeastern United States, where it inhabits wetlands that frequently overlap with human-populated areas. It is larger than the other Alligator species, the Chinese Alligator. Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1944x2592, 3380 KB) An American Alligator in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio. ... The conservation status of a species is an indicator of the likelihood of that species continuing to survive either in the present day or the future. ... Image File history File links Status_iucn2. ... Least Concern (LC) is an IUCN category assigned to extant species or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. ... For other uses, see Scientific classification (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Animal (disambiguation). ... Typical Classes See below Chordates (phylum Chordata) are a group of animals that includes the vertebrates, together with several closely related invertebrates. ... Reptilia redirects here. ... black: range of Crocodilia Families Gavialidae Alligatoridae Crocodylidae Crocodilia is an order of large reptiles that appeared about 84 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period (Campanian stage). ... Living Genera Alligator Caiman Melanosuchus Paleosuchus Alligators and caimans are reptiles, small species of crocodilians and forming the family Alligatoridae (sometimes regarded instead as the subfamily Alligatorinae). ... For other uses, see Alligator (disambiguation). ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... François Marie Daudin (March 25, 1774 - 1804) was a French zoologist. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... For other uses, see Alligator (disambiguation). ... Living Genera Alligator Caiman Melanosuchus Paleosuchus Alligators and caimans are reptiles, small species of crocodilians and forming the family Alligatoridae (sometimes regarded instead as the subfamily Alligatorinae). ... Regional definitions vary from source to source. ... Binomial name Fauvel, 1879 The Chinese Alligator or Yangtze Alligator (Chinese: , Alligator sinensis) is one of two living species of Alligator, a genus within the family Alligatoridae. ...

Contents

Anatomy

Detail of an American Alligator forelimb showing the large claws and slight webbing between the toes.
Detail of an American Alligator forelimb showing the large claws and slight webbing between the toes.
Tail is for aquatic propulsion and as weapon of defense
Tail is for aquatic propulsion and as weapon of defense

The American Alligator has a large, slightly rounded body, with thick limbs, a broad head, and a very powerful tail. Males can weigh 500 lbs to over 1000 pounds; one American Alligator allegedly reached a length of 19 feet, 2 inches (5.8 meters),[1] which would make it the largest recorded. 9 to 14.5 feet (3 to 4.39 meters) is a more common adult size.[2] 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. Alligators travel very quickly in water, are generally slow-moving on land and can lunge short distances very quickly. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2048x1360, 2470 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages link to this file: Alligator American Alligator Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner used to create or digitize it. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2048x1360, 2470 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages link to this file: Alligator American Alligator Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner used to create or digitize it. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 398 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (1360 × 2048 pixel, file size: 1. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 398 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (1360 × 2048 pixel, file size: 1. ...


Habitat

Today, alligators are found throughout the Southeast, from Merchants Millpond State Park in North Carolina to Texas and south to southeastern Oklahoma. Regional definitions vary from source to source. ... Merchants Millpond State Park is a state park of the U.S. state of North Carolina. ... Official language(s) English Capital Raleigh Largest city Charlotte Largest metro area Charlotte metro area Area  Ranked 28th  - Total 53,865 sq mi (139,509 km²)  - Width 150 miles (240 km)  - Length 560[1] miles (901 km)  - % water 9. ... Official language(s) No official language See languages of Texas Capital Austin Largest city Houston Largest metro area Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington Area  Ranked 2nd  - Total 261,797 sq mi (678,051 km²)  - Width 773 miles (1,244 km)  - Length 790 miles (1,270 km)  - % water 2. ... Official language(s) None Capital Oklahoma City Largest city Oklahoma City Largest metro area Oklahoma City metro area Area  Ranked 20th  - Total 69,898 sq mi (181,196 km²)  - Width 230 miles (370 km)  - Length 298 miles (480 km)  - % water 1. ...


As during the Reptile Age, alligators live in wetlands, and it is this vital habitat that holds the key to their continued long-term survival. Alligators depend on the wetlands, and in some ways the wetlands depend on them. As predators at the top of the food chain, they help control the population of rodents and other animals that might overtax the marshland vegetation. A subtropical wetland in Florida, USA, with an endangered American Crocodile. ... This snapping turtle is trying to make a meal of a Canada goose, but the goose is too wary. ... == HEADLINE TEXT== Food chains, food webs and/or food networks describe the feeding relationships between other species to another within an ecosystem. ... This article is about marsh, a type of wetland. ...


Gator holes

An American Alligator in Amazonia in Great Yarmouth.

The alligator's greatest value to the marsh and the other animals that inhabit it are the "gator holes" that many adults create and expand on over a period of years. An alligator uses its mouth and claws to uproot vegetation to clear out a space; then, shoving with its body and slashing with its powerful tail, it wallows out a depression that stays full of water in the wet season and holds water after the rains stop. During the dry season, and particularly during extended droughts, gator holes provide vital water for fish, insects, crustaceans, snakes, turtles, birds, and other animals in addition to the alligator itself. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2592x1944, 792 KB) This is a picture of an american alligator head. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2592x1944, 792 KB) This is a picture of an american alligator head. ...


Sometimes, the alligator may expand its gator hole by digging beneath an overhanging bank to create a hidden den. After tunneling as far as 20 feet (6 m), it enlarges the end, making a chamber with a ceiling high enough above water level to permit breathing. This is not the alligator's nest but merely a way for the reptile to survive the dry season and winters.


Diet

Alligators eat almost anything, but primarily consume fish, birds, turtles, mammals and amphibians. Hatchlings however are restricted to smaller prey items like invertebrates. 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. As they grow, they gradually move onto larger fish, mollusks, frogs and small mammals like rats and mice. Sub adult alligators take a larger variety of prey; ranging from snakes and turtles to birds and moderate sized mammals like raccoons and pets. For other uses, see Fish (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Bird (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Turtle (disambiguation). ... Subclasses & Infraclasses Subclass †Allotheria* Subclass Prototheria Subclass Theria Infraclass †Trituberculata Infraclass Metatheria Infraclass Eutheria Mammals (class Mammalia) are warm-blooded, vertebrate animals characterized by the presence of sweat glands, including those that produce milk, and by the presence of: hair, three middle ear bones used in hearing, and a neocortex... For other uses, see Amphibian (disambiguation). ... Invertebrate is an English word that describes any animal without a spinal column. ... Orders Subclass Apterygota Archaeognatha (bristletails) Thysanura (silverfish) Subclass Pterygota Infraclass Paleoptera (Probably paraphyletic) Ephemeroptera (mayflies) Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) Infraclass Neoptera Superorder Exopterygota Grylloblattodea (ice-crawlers) Mantophasmatodea (gladiators) Plecoptera (stoneflies) Embioptera (webspinners) Zoraptera (angel insects) Dermaptera (earwigs) Orthoptera (grasshoppers, etc) Phasmatodea (stick insects) Blattodea (cockroaches) Isoptera (termites) Mantodea (mantids) Psocoptera... A larval insect A larva (Latin; plural larvae) is a juvenile form of animal with indirect development, undergoing metamorphosis (for example, insects or amphibians). ... For other uses, see Snail (disambiguation). ... Diversity 111 families, 40,000 species Suborders Mesothelae Mygalomorphae Araneomorphae  See table of families Wikispecies has information related to: Spiders Spiders are predatory invertebrate animals that have two body segments, eight legs, no chewing mouth parts and no wings. ... For other uses, see Worm (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Fish (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Fish (disambiguation). ... Classes Caudofoveata Aplacophora Polyplacophora Monoplacophora Bivalvia Scaphopoda Gastropoda Cephalopoda † Rostroconchia The mollusks or molluscs are the large and diverse phylum Mollusca, which includes a variety of familiar creatures well-known for their decorative shells or as seafood. ... Distribution of frogs (in black) Suborders Archaeobatrachia Mesobatrachia Neobatrachia - List of Anuran families The frogness babe is an amphibian in the order Anura (meaning tail-less from Greek an-, without + oura, tail), formerly referred to as Salientia (Latin saltare, to jump). ... Species 50 species; see text *Several subfamilies of Muroids include animals called rats. ... Mice may refer to: An abbreviation of Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions. ... For other uses, see Snake (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Turtle (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Bird (disambiguation). ... Orders Subclass Monotremata Monotremata Subclass Marsupialia Didelphimorphia Paucituberculata Microbiotheria Dasyuromorphia Peramelemorphia Notoryctemorphia Diprotodontia Subclass Placentalia Xenarthra Dermoptera Desmostylia Scandentia Primates Rodentia Lagomorpha Insectivora Chiroptera Pholidota Carnivora Perissodactyla Artiodactyla Cetacea Afrosoricida Macroscelidea Tubulidentata Hyracoidea Proboscidea Sirenia The mammals are the class of vertebrate animals primarily characterized by the presence of mammary... Binomial name (Linnaeus, 1758) Common Raccoon native range in red, feral range in blue. ... This article is about animals kept for companionship. ...


Once an alligator reaches adulthood, any animal living in the water or coming to water to drink is potential prey. Adult alligators will eat razorbacks, deer, domestic animals including cattle and sheep, and are often known to kill and eat smaller alligators. Larger male alligators have been known to take down Florida panther and bears, making the American alligator the apex predator throughout its distribution. Binomial name Linnaeus, 1758 For the guitar, see Dean Razorback. ... This article is about the ruminant animal. ... For general information about the genus, including other species of cattle, see Bos. ... Species See text. ... Trinomial name Puma concolor coryi The Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) is a critically endangered subspecies of Puma that lives in the low pinelands, palm forests and swamps of southern Florida in the United States, especially near the Big Cypress National Preserve [1]. It is the last subspecies of Puma... For other meanings, see Bear (disambiguation). ...


The stomachs of alligators often contain gastroliths. The function of these stones is to grind up food in the stomach and help with digestion. This is important because gators swallow their food whole. These gastroliths are also used in buoyancy control. Gastroliths (stomach stones or gizzard stones) are rocks, which are or have been held inside the digestive tract of an animal. ... Gastroliths (stomach stones or gizzard stones) are rocks, which are or have been held inside the digestive tract of an animal. ... In physics, buoyancy is the upward force on an object produced by the surrounding fluid (i. ...


Despite the extensiveness of their shared habitat with humans, alligator attacks on humans are comparatively rare. Most alligators fear humans due to hunting; attacks on humans are typically a result of feeding of alligators. Once a human feeds an alligator, it expects food whenever it sees someone.


Reproduction

A juvenile American Alligator showing the distinctive yellow striping found on juveniles.

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. . Download high resolution version (890x411, 43 KB)This image (C) User:Pcb21, 2002. ... Download high resolution version (890x411, 43 KB)This image (C) User:Pcb21, 2002. ... For other uses, see Reproduction (disambiguation) Reproduction is the biological process by which new individual organisms are produced. ... Laryngoscopic view of the vocal folds. ...


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. The temperature at which alligator eggs develop determines their sex. Those eggs which are hatched in temperatures ranging from 90–93 °Fahrenheit (32.2–33.8 °C) turn out to be male, while those in temperatures from 82–86 °Fahrenheit (27.7–30 °C) end up being female. Intermediate temperature ranges have proven to yield a mix of both male and females. The female will remain near the nest throughout the 65-day incubation period, protecting the nest from intruders. When the young begin to hatch they emit a high-pitched croaking noise, and the female quickly digs them out. For other uses, see Nest (disambiguation). ... Geese redirects here. ... The word incubation (from the Latin incubare, to lie upon) can mean the following: In chemistry or biochemistry, incubation refers to maintaining a system under specific conditions in order to promote a particular reaction. ...


The young, which are tiny replicas of adult alligators with a series of yellow bands around their bodies, then find their way to water. For several days they continue to live on yolk masses within their bellies.The baby spends about 5 months with the mother before leaving her


Alligators reach breeding maturity at about 8 to 13 years of age, at which time they are about 6 to 7 feet (1.8–2.1 m) long. From then on, growth continues at a slower rate. Old males may grow to be 18 feet (5.4 m) long and weigh up to 1,200 pounds (510 kg)during a lifespan of 30 or more years.


Attacks on people and Alligator safety

An alligator taken in Everglades National Park
An alligator taken in Everglades National Park

Alligators are capable of killing humans, but generally fear humans enough to avoid them as prey, and are far less dangerous than the infamous Nile crocodile and Saltwater crocodile. Alligator bites are serious injuries due to the risk of infection. Inadequate treatment or neglect of an alligator bite may result in an infection that causes a need for amputation of a limb. The alligator's tail itself is a fearsome weapon capable of knocking a person down and breaking bones. Even though they rarely kill, they should be left alone. Untrained individuals should never feed them (an illegal practice in Florida) because if an alligator associates people with food, it can become a dangerous problem animal. Alligators are protective parents, and a very young alligator may have a mother nearby who will protect her young by attacking anything that comes too close. They are best appreciated at a safe distance for the protection of both persons and alligators; handling of them is best left to well-equipped and trained experts. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 534 pixelsFull resolution (1600 × 1067 pixel, file size: 303 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 534 pixelsFull resolution (1600 × 1067 pixel, file size: 303 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Everglades National Park preserves the southern portion of the Everglades (all south of Tamiami Trail), but represents only 20 % of the original wetland area. ... Binomial name (Laurenti, 1768) The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is one of the 3 species of crocodiles found in Africa, and the second largest species of crocodile. ... Binomial name (Schneider, 1801) Range of the Saltwater Crocodile in black The Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest of all living reptiles. ...


There were only nine fatal attacks in the U.S. throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, but alligators killed 11 people from 2001 to 2006. In May 2006, alligators killed three Floridians in four days, two of them in the same day. One victim was a jogger whose body was found in a canal on Florida's Atlantic coast; one was snorkeling in a recreation area near Lake George, in the central part of the state; another was found in a canal on the state's Gulf Coast.


When in gator country, it is a safe practice to know which lakes and rivers are inhabited by alligators and avoid being in the water with them. In many areas, signs are posted warning of their presence, but some are not. Evidence of an area being inhabited by gators include alligator slides onshore (these are markers where the belly of the gator has slid down the bank into the water) and large piles of muddy sticks and foliage in spring which indicate nesting sites. Pet owners should not let their dogs and cats roam too far from home in such areas because an alligator will eat a dog or a cat if the opportunity presents itself. If one does encounter an aggressive alligator, it is a good idea to watch the tail, as it may try to knock you down. Do not panic and never let it take you into the water, where it will try to drown you.


Endangered species recovery

Historically, alligators were depleted from many parts of their range as a result of market hunting and loss of habitat, and 30 years ago many people believed this unique reptile would never recover. In 1967, the alligator was listed as an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973), meaning it was considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The Endangered Species Act (, et seq. ... For other uses, see Extinction (disambiguation). ...


A combined effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies in the South, and the creation of large, commercial alligator farms saved these unique animals. The Endangered Species Act outlawed alligator hunting, allowing the species to rebound in numbers in many areas where it had been depleted. As the alligator began to make a comeback, states established alligator population monitoring programs and used this information to ensure alligator numbers continued to increase. In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American alligator fully recovered and consequently removed the animal from the list of endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service still regulates the legal trade in alligator skins and products made from them. The USFWS logo The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that is dedicated to managing and preserving wildlife. ... The U.S. Southern states or The South, known during the American Civil War era as Dixie, is a distinctive region of the United States with its own unique historical perspective, customs, musical styles, and cuisine. ... This article is about the hunting of prey by human society. ...

An albino alligator; this trait is more common in captivity.
An albino alligator; this trait is more common in captivity.

Although the American alligator is secure, some related animals — such as several species of crocodiles and caimans — are still in trouble. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2272 × 1704 pixels, file size: 1. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2272 × 1704 pixels, file size: 1. ... Genera Alligator Caiman Melanosuchus Paleosuchus Alligators and caimans are reptiles closely related to the crocodiles and forming the family Alligatoridae (sometimes regarded instead as the subfamily Alligatorinae). ...


Dangers in South Florida

In South Florida, alligators face ambient temperature patterns unlike elsewhere in their range. The consistently high temperatures lead to increased metabolic cost. Location of metropolitan area in the state of Florida Major cities Miami, Florida Fort Lauderdale, Florida West Palm Beach, Florida Area  - Total  - Water 15,896 km² (6,137 mi²) 2,621 km² (1,011 mi²) 16. ... Santorio Santorio (1561-1636) in his steelyard balance, from Ars de statica medecina, first published 1614 Metabolism (from μεταβολισμος(metavallo), the Greek word for change), in the most general sense, is the ingestion and breakdown of complex compounds, coupled...


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. Map of the Everglades ecoregion as delineated by the WWF. Satellite image from NASA. The yellow line encloses two ecoregions, the Everglades and the South Florida rocklands. The South Florida rocklands ecoregion includes the Florida Keys and offshore islands and two patches within the Everglades. ...


See also

Binomial name (Cuvier, 1807) The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is one of the four species of New World crocodile and the most wide-spread in range. ... This is a list of fatal alligator attacks that occurred in the United States by decade in reverse chronological order. ...

References

  1. ^ Everglades National Park article on the American Alligator
  2. ^ Crocodile Species - American Alligator

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Alligator mississipiensis

  Results from FactBites:
 
ADW: Alligator mississippiensis: Information (2123 words)
American alligators are found from the southern Virginia-North Carolina border, along the Atlantic coast to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico as far west as the Rio Grande in Texas.
American alligators are the most vocal of all crocodilians, and communication begins early in life, while alligators are still in eggs.
American alligators have proven to be an important part of the environment, and therefor, are considered by many to be a "keystone" species.
BioKIDS - Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species, Critter Catalog, Alligator mississippiensis, American alligator (1937 words)
American alligators are found from the southern Virginia-North Carolina border, along the Atlantic coast to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico as far west as the Rio Grande in Texas.
American alligators are the most vocal of all crocodilians, and communication begins early in life, while alligators are still in eggs.
American alligators have proven to be an important part of the environment, and therefor, are considered by many to be a "keystone" species.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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