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American alligator facts # 1
The name alligator is the derived from the Spanish el lagarto which means “the lizard”. The name Alligator mississippiensis means “Alligator of the Mississippi”. In the initial description of this species, the name was misspelt mississipiensis (one p) but the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature later agreed to change it to mississippiensis since this is how the name of the river is spelled.
American alligator facts # 2
The American alligator is also known as the Pike-headed alligator and the Mississippi alligator. Colloquially, it is referred to as simply “gator”.
American alligator facts # 3
Large American alligators are capable of killing humans, especially children. When alligators attack it is usually because they feel threatened or perceive the human as a danger to eggs or young, but alligators can also attack because they mistake the human for a much smaller prey. In some areas alligators are fed by humans, a practise that undermines the animal’s natural shyness and instead encourages it to aggressively approach humans expecting food.
Between 1970 and 1999, nine fatal alligator attacks were reported in the United States. Between 2001 and 2007, alligators killed 12 people. This increase is believed to be a result of the illegal feeding of alligators.
Alligator bites should receive prompt medical attention due to the high risk of infection.
American alligator facts # 4
Compared to populations in other parts of the species range, the American alligators living in the Florida Everglades are shorter, have a reduced length to weight ratio, and attain sexual maturity later in life. In Florida, the alligators have to cope with ambient temperature patterns unlike elsewhere in their range. A scarcity of suitable prey is also suspected to play a part in this divergence.
American alligator facts # 5
The largest populations of American alligators are found in Louisiana, Florida and Georgia. Louisiana is home to an estimated 1.5-2 million individuals, Florida 1-1.5 million and Georgia 200,000-400,000.
American alligator facts # 6
Out of all now living species of animal, the American alligator has the strongest bite known to science. In laboratory conditions it was measured at 9,452 newtons (2,125 lbf).
American alligator facts # 7
Alligator hides are quite valuable and sustainable farming and harvesting have been imperative to the recovery of this species. Alligator farms in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Texas produce a combined total of approximately 45,000 hides per year. There is also a growing market for alligator meat with roughly 300,000 lbs (140,000 kg) of meat produced annually.
American alligator facts # 8
In the wild, a very low percentage of eggs and hatchlings make it to adulthood and sustainable harvest programs can therefore tax quite a large percentage of an alligator population without affecting its stability. Studies carried out in Florida have shown that up to 13% of sub-adult to adult animals, plus all the eggs from 50% of all located nests, can be removed each year without affecting the stability of the alligator population.
American alligator facts # 9
The American alligator is found farther from the equator than any other crocodilian. This is believed to be the result of its amazing tolerance to cold. It is for instance much more cold tolerant than the American crocodile.
American alligator facts # 10
The Everglades National Park is home to a sizeable population of Burmese Pythons. The introduction of this large Asian predator might be causing problems for the American alligator through competition for suitable prey, and the Burmese Python is also known to kill and eat American alligators. However, alligators also kill and eat Burmese Pythons.
American alligator facts # 11
The American alligators are of high importance for the ecosystems in which they occur. Their nesting activities create peat and species such as the Florida Red-bellied turtle (Chrysemys nelsoni) incubate their eggs inside alligator nests. By excavating “alligator holes”, the alligator helps a lot of animals to survive the dry season. Alligators also keep other predatory species in check and are important for the long-term existence of wetlands since they prey on rodents and similar animals that might otherwise overtax the marshland vegetation.
American alligator facts # 12
In some parts of the species range “nuisance alligator”-programs have been established to handle alligators that settle too close to human habitations. Since relocated alligators tend to return to their old home within just a few days, these programs usually sell the animal to a farm or sell its hide directly rather than attempt relocation. The money is then used to fund the program.
American alligator facts # 13
Captive American alligators tend to develop much broader jaws than their wild counterparts. This is believed to be the result of different diets.
American alligator facts # 14
The American alligator can travel very fast in water using its powerful tail for propulsion. On land it is generally slow-moving, but it can lunge short distances very quickly.
American alligator facts # 15
During courting, male American alligators use infrasound to communicate.