The Subfamily: Alligatorinae
Other Common Names: Gator, Pike-headed alligator, Florida Alligator, Mississippi Alligator, Louisiana Alligator.
Imagine a reptile with such powerful jaws that it can grab an animal weighing more than 2,000 pounds (900 kg) and snap its neck in one crushing bite. If the bite doesn’t kill, the reptile pulls its victim into deep water. Then it goes into a death roll, spinning the animal underwater until it drowns.
This incredibly strong creature is one of a group of reptiles called Crocodilians, which include Alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gavials. A crocodilian has four short legs, a long, powerful tail, and thick, scaled hide. All crocodilians are reptiles and live both on land and in water.
Crocodilians also are carnivorous, or meat – eating, reptiles. All reptiles are cold – blooded. A cold – blooded creature has a body temperature that changes according to the climate.
Crocodilians are the closest living link to the dinosaur. They have changed little since they first appeared on Earth more than 200 million years ago. Crocodilians also were one of the world’s first predators. Crocodilians have the potential to attack humans. Yet only a few species of crocodilians pose a real threat to people. Man – eating crocodilians include the American alligator, the saltwater crocodile, and the Nile crocodile. The Indian gavial is known to eat human corpses that float down rivers as part of funerals. However, gavials don’t attack living people.
No one knows exactly how many humans are killed by alligators and crocodiles each year. However, the number is thought to be fairly low. What scientists do know is that the number of alligator and crocodile attacks is on the rise.
During the last decade, contact between people and crocodilians has increased. This increase is due to human taking over the reptiles' natural habitat. A habitat is an area where an animal naturally lives and grows. When a gator or croc feels its habitat is being threatened, it may attack. And when these reptiles do attack, there is little chance of escape.
Alligators are amazing! They can swim swiftly despite their size and short, stubby legs. They can open their big mouths and grab prey under water without getting any water in their lungs or stomach. How do they do that? And why does an alligator sometimes build a big mound of plants and mud and then guard it? Well, keep reading and you will find more about this creature on this web site. You will even take a peek inside an alligator.
Alligators are only found in the southeastern United States and in China. Wherever they live, alligator spend a lot of time doing nothing or it seems that way. Lying around is really important for an alligator.
The first Spanish explores to visit Florida found a strange, new animal. It was long and leathery. It had four short legs. It had long, flat jaws. The Spaniards called the animal "El Lagarto, which means "The Lizard". What the Spaniards had found was not quiet a lizard, however. It was the American Alligator.
People have known about and feared crocodiles and alligators for centuries. Early people made up all kind of stories about these giant reptiles with their long tails. Fables of fire - breathing dragons and giant serpents that ate humans were probably based upon crocodiles and alligators. Yet stranger than all these tall tales is the true story of crocodiles and alligators. The only other animal very closely related to crocodiles and alligators is called a "gavial,” The word comes from India, where gavials live. The world means long, thin jar, but in the gavial’s case it is the jaws that are long and thin.
Despite an alligator's or crocodile's fearsome looks, watching one in a zoo may seem as exciting as watching grass grow. Alligators lie nearly motionless for a long part of each day. You might think that they are dull and uninteresting, but could be further from the truth.
Alligators have been on earth for more than 65 million years. Alligators were here when dinosaurs roamed the land. They remain almost unchanged since then.
Today there are two types of alligators: American alligators and Chinese alligators.
The American alligators are large. The males are usually between eleven and twelve feet long. They can weigh almost 1,000 pounds. The largest female is about nine feet long. They weigh over 150 pounds.
All alligators are reptiles. Reptiles are cold- blooded animals. They are not spiteful or cruel. Being cold- blooded has to do with body temperature. A cold- blooded animal’s body temperature changes with its surroundings. In colder weather, an alligator’s body temperature drops. When it is very warm, its body temperature rises.
Some people compare alligators to lizards. They say that alligators look like monster lizards. That because alligators are so much bigger than lizards. Alligators also have broader bodies than lizards. Their tails are broader, too.
An alligator’s tail is important in the water. These animals swim by moving their tails from side to side. They also have four short but strong legs. An alligator’s feet are helpful both on land and in the water. The animal’s back feet are webbed and have four toes. These help it steer in the water. Its front feet have five long toes. These give the alligator firm footing on the ground.
Many people think alligators are bright green. But only the alligators in Hollywood movies are that color. Young alligators are actually dark brown or black. They have yellow bands or marks on their bodies.
As the alligator ages, the marks fade. Adult alligators are usually dull gray, deep olive (a yellowish green), or black. They are often mistaken for logs floating in the water. An alligator’s skin is tough. There are bony plates within the skin. That makes the alligator’s body look “armored.” But the scariest part of an alligator is probably its mouth.