Alligator

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Category: Animal Info Pages


The American alligator (A. mississippiensis) is one of two extant species of alligator left on the planet, the other being the Chinese alligator.  The name "alligator" is thought to be derived from the Spanish phrase el lagarto, which simply means "the lizard".  We know from fossil records that alligators first appeared roughly 37 million years ago, during a period of time known as the Oligocene epoch.  

 

American alligators can grow to over 14 feet long, and can weigh almost a half ton.  The largest alligator ever taken was almost 20 feet long, and was harvested in Louisiana.  Strangely, biologists have not recorded a definite average lifespan for alligators, though one alligator from Belgrade Zoo has been in captivity for over 76 years.  "Muja", is the alligator's name, and it is considered the oldest alligator in captivity.

 

All of the south-eastern United States is inhabited by alligators, and Florida is the only place in the U.S. where alligators and crocodiles inhabit the same area.  Alligators prefer marshy areas, but will sometimes venture into brackish water for prey.  Alligators are considered a very important part of their eco-system because they not only increase the diversity of plant life, but they also feed on nuisance rodents like the coypu.

 

Other cool facts?

Alligators have wider, U-shaped snouts than crocodiles, which have a v-shaped head.  The crocodile's teeth protrude when the mouth is shut, while the alligator's do not.

 

Alligators will eat any creature unfortunate enough to venture too close, including cows, birds, deer, and sometimes even people. 

 

Alligators cannot perform the well-known "death roll" without a fully functioning tail.

 

Alligators have a strong bite, but the muscle responsible for opening its jaws is so weak, an adult human can hold its mouth shut bare handed!