American Alligators

American allgatorAmerican alligators are found in the swamps of the Gulf states and Mexico.  They grow to about 10 feet in length and weigh up to 500 pounds.

American alligators eat a variety of animals.  Mainly they eat reptiles, small mammals, and fish, although sometimes they will eat larger animals like deer or wild hogs.  They are ambush predators.  They hunt by sneaking up under water on their prey, and then erupting out of the water and latching onto their prey with their jaws, then dragging them into deeper water to drown them.  Their teeth are designed for holding and ripping.  They fall out often and are replaced by new ones.  Like all alligators, american alligators cannot chew, so they eat by ripping chunks of flesh off of their kill and swallowing them whole.

American alligator females lay around 45 eggs in a nest made of mud, grass, weeds, and sticks that she constructs near a river or lake.  After the eggs incubate for 60 days and hatch, the mother carries them to the water in her mouth.  She protects them for their first few months of life, then lets them to face the world alone.

American alligators are the rulers of the swamps they dwell in, and have no natural predators.  However, during the 18th and 19th century, they were almost wiped out for their skins to be made into shoes, purses, and suits.  They are now a protected species, but are still threatened from man-made reasons.  Logging removes their habitat, and invasive Burmese pythons eat alligators of all sizes.  Still the future looks bright for american alligators, which have survived since the age of the dinosaurs.