The American alligator, sometimes referred to colloquially as gator or common alligator, is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving. State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species' wild population to more than one million and growing today.
One look at these menacing predators—with their armored bony plants (osteoderms or scutes), lizard-like bodies, muscular tails, and powerful jaws—and it is obvious they are envoys from the distant past. The species, scientists say, is more than 150 million years old, managing to avoid extinction 65 million years ago when their prehistoric contemporaries, the dinosaurs, died off.
American alligators reside nearly exclusively in the freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States, primarily Florida and Louisiana.
The average size of an adult female alligator is 8.2 feet and a male is 11.2 feet; males can reach a weight of nearly a half a ton or 1,000 pounds.
Alligators are apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates. They play an important role as ecosystem engineers in wetland ecosystems through the creation of alligator holes, which provide both wet and dry habitats for other organisms.
Throughout the year, but particularly during the breeding season, alligators bellow to declare territory and locate suitable mates. Male alligators use infrasound to attract females. Eggs are laid in a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. Young are born with yellow bands around their bodies and are protected by their mother for up to one year.
A very large alligator bellowing at Gatorland! Click here to watch video -- https://youtu.be/JBbDzJlYRVk
The American alligator is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Historically, hunting had decimated their population, and the American alligator was listed as an endangered species by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and the species was removed from the list in 1987. Alligators are now harvested for their skins and meat.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
Pictures in this post were taken at the Viera Wetlands, Gatorland and the Merritt Island NWR.