Alligator mississippiensisAmerican Alligator

Family

  • Alligatoridae

Lifespan

  • Wild: 30 to 40 years
  • Captivity: 50 to 80 years

Size

  • Length: 9 to 18 feet, with the tail accounting for half the length
  • Weight: The average female ranges from 150 to 300 pounds; The average male ranges from 400 to 600 pounds

Origin

  • Southeastern United States, from North Carolina to Texas, as well as parts of Central America

Habitat

  • Swampy areas, ponds, lakes, sluggish rivers, freshwater, and brackish marshes.

Diet

  • Wild: Insects and fish as well as a variety of reptiles, birds, and mammals
  • Zoo: Frozen thawed large adult mice and enrichment items such as chicken, fish, yams, tomatoes, and frozen thawed rats.

Reproduction

  • Bulls roar loudly to attract a female and to warn off other males because they are very territorial during breeding season.
  • Near the end of courtship, both animals engage in a bout of snout and back rubbing.
  • Alligators are egg-layers and females will lay 20 to 50 eggs in a single clutch per year.
  • The eggs are laid in a nest of mud and rotting vegetation near the water’s edge.
    • Michigan’s climate is too cold for alligator eggs to hatch.
    • Sex is usually determined by the warmth of the eggs during incubation
  • Alligators reach maturity past 6 years of age.

Special AdaptationsAmerican Alligator

  • The alligator has a wonderful camouflage.
    • Young alligators have yellowish bands on their body, but adults are generally gray or black in color.
    • The ears and nostrils have valves that close when the alligator is submerged, and it can remain under water for up to an hour.

Unique Characteristics

  • The alligator has a broad snout and all the teeth in its upper jaw overlap with those in the lower.
  • There are about 80 teeth in those powerful jaws!
    • As teeth wear down or break, a new tooth replaces the old
      • Alligators go through about 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.

Conservation

  • IUCN: Lower Risk
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • The main predator for the American alligator is humans.
    • Hunted for its skin and meat, alligators were once on the brink of extinction.
  • Preservation of wetlands is very important for alligator habitats.
  • The American alligator is a keystone species to the ecosystem, so its preservation is crucial.
  • Conservation efforts have since taken the American alligator from the endangered species list.

What’s the Difference?

Ever wonder the difference between alligators and crocodiles? Alligators have broad heads with short, blunt snouts and their lower teeth fit into the edge of the upper jaw and cannot be seen when the mouth is closed. Crocodiles have a narrow head and a slender snout. Their lower teeth are visible while their mouth is closed.

American Alligator

Sources

  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012. www.cites.org
  2. IUCN Red List. Accessed December 2012. www.iucnredlist.org