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AMERICAN ALLIGATOR Alligator mississippiensis. IDENTIFICATION. One of the largest living reptiles Has a large rounded body with thick limbs Size: Adult males: avg. length 13-14 ft, occasionally up to 16 ft, weight 400 – 500 pounds

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identification
IDENTIFICATION
  • One of the largest living reptiles
  • Has a large rounded body with thick limbs
  • Size:

Adult males: avg. length 13-14 ft, occasionally up to 16 ft,

weight 400 – 500 pounds

Adult females: avg. length 8 – 10 ft and weigh 160 – 230

pounds

  • Both sexes have “armored body” with a muscular flat tail
  • Nostrils located on the upper end of snout for “submerged breathing”
identification4
ALLIGATOR

Broad head – blunt snout

Lower teeth do not show with mouth closed

Black in coloration

Prefer fresh water

CROCODILE

Narrow head- long snout

Lower teeth visible when mouth is closed

Brown in coloration

Prefer salt/brackish water

IDENTIFICATION
life history
LIFE HISTORY
  • “Living Fossil” from the Age of Reptiles
  • Has survived for over 200 million years
  • Market Hunting and Habitat Loss depleted them from most of their natural range (est. 10 million skins taken)
  • 1967 placed on Endangered List
life history7
LIFE HISTORY
  • USFWS, State Agencies, and concerned stakeholders joined forces
  • KEY TO RECOVERY – multi-discipline management practices
  • 1987 removed from EndangeredList
  • Today – widely distributed and numerous throughout most of it’s natural range
  • Listed as Threatened due to:

- American crocodile listed as Endangered

- Listed on CITES: Appendix II

- IUCN Red List: LRIc (low risk, least concern)

range population
RANGE & POPULATION
  • National population: > 1 million naturally occurring
  • 150 active farming operations
  • Natural Range: Central America and Southern United States to include; Alabama, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.
ecology
ECOLOGY
  • HABITAT

- Primarily freshwater edges around

swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes, and ponds.

- Will venture into brackish or salt water

for short periods, lacks the buccal ( salt

secreting gland) found in crocodiles.

ecology10
ECOLOGY
  • FEEDING HABITS:

- Carnivorous, opportunistic feeder, will eat anything it

can catch.

- Hunts primarily in water – will take small mammals at

waters edge.

- Eats small prey whole – large prey is drowned

(tenderized) then eaten in large pieces

- Have a specialized valve (glottis) allows for catching prey

underwater

- Feeding activity ceases if water temperature falls

below 20º to 23ºC (68-73ºF)

ecology11
ECOLOGY
  • FEEDING HABITS:

- Preferred Foods

Adult: fish, turtles, wading birds, snakes,

frogs, carrion, and small mammals.

Juvenile: small fish, crustaceans, snails,

shrimp, tadpoles, and frogs.

- Food for: juveniles are preyed on by snakes,

raccoons, wading birds, large fish,

otters, osprey, and other alligators.

- Consumption: adults consume 20 lbs of meat per week

in warm weather – 0 lbs during winter

ecology12
ECOLOGY
  • BREEDING HABITS:

- Breed annually in April and May

- Mating occurs in open waters at night

- Males and females reach sexual maturity

at 6 ft, in length (10-12 yrs of age)

- Males roar to attract females and ward off

other males

- Mature males establish a territory and will

service up to 10 or more females and will

defend the territory against intruders

ecology13
ECOLOGY
  • BREEDING HABITS:

- Once breeding occurs the female will seek out a secluded

location and construct a large mound nest out of muddy

vegetation

- 1 wk later female lays 30-70 eggs (Jun-Jul)

- 60-65 day incubation period

- young hatch with aid of egg tooth

- the young immediately signal mother with high pitched

grunts

ecology15
ECOLOGY
  • BREEDING HABITS:

- Mother will then open the nest and gently

carry the young in her mouth to water

- Females tend to their young up to 3 years

- Young are born 6-9 inches long and have

yellow bands for camoflage

- Approx. 80% of the young fall to predation

ecology17
ECOLOGY
  • PHYSICAL ADAPTATIONS:

--Large strong jaw has 80 teeth, and is used to

capture, crush, and dismantle

--Cannot chew – must swallow food whole or in

large chunks

--Eyes, ears and nostrils are near top of head, with valves

to close ears and nostrils when sumerged. This allows

the alligator to be able to submerge its entire body and

still breath

--Can stay submerged 45-60 minutes

--Toes are joined at base by webbing

--Good binocular vision

ecology18
ECOLOGY
  • LOCOMOTION:

-- Moves efficiently in water, swimming

with serpentine movement of body and

tail, uses hindfeet as rudders

-- On land, slides on its belly, walks or

gallops for short distances

  • HEAT REGULATION:

-- Ectothermic

-- Lies on the banks to bask in sun for warmth

-- Submerges in heat of day to cool off

ecology20
ECOLOGY
  • ENVIRONMENTAL ADAPTATIONS:

-Denning: alligators create dens to survive the dry season

and winters – accomplished by digging tunnels

into over hanging banks

- Icing response: Alligators can survive freezing

conditions if they are in water, they submerge

their bodies—but keep their nostrils exposed.

When the surface freezes they can still breathe.

Essentially their upper body becomes trapped in

ice. Testimony to their survival ability.

taxonomy
TAXONOMY
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertbrata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Crocodylidae
  • Subfamily: Alligatorinae
  • Genus: Alligator
  • Species: alligator mississippiensis
ecosystem role
ECOSYSTEM ROLE
  • “KEYSTONE SPECIES”

-- Controls populations of prey species

-- Creates peat beds (old or abandoned nest)

providing for Red-bellied turtle

(Chrysemys nelsoni) nesting sites

-- #1 Value “Gator Holes” fill with water during

rainy season and hold water well into the dry

season – creating miniature wetlands that

provide critical habitat for a variety of species

economic role
ECONOMIC ROLE
  • NEGATIVE IMPACTS:

-- Threat to humans – in highly populated

areas have been known to eat pets and

small children

-- “Nuisance alligator” programs have been

put into place with good success

  • POSITIVE IMPACTS:

-- Tourism $$$$$$$$

-- Hunting revenues – hunted for skins and meat

-- Multi-million dollar farming industry – farmed

for skins and meat

future research and management
FUTURE RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT
  • American alligator is the best studied species of crocodalian
  • Research is currently being conducted by private, industrial, governmental, and educational institutions in the following areas; population size, distribution and trends, animal sizes, sexes, activity periods, growth rates, and reproduction efforts, diet, nutritional energetics, responses to thermal effluent from reactors into cooling reservoirs, uptake of radionucleides, genetic patterns, and the conservation of the species.
safety notes
SAFETY NOTES

1)Don’t feed the alligators

2) Keep your distance

3) Never disturb nest or small alligators

4) Keep your pets and children away from alligators

5) Don’t swim in areas that are known alligator habitats

6) Be cautious when fishing in waters with alligators