The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America; it is also the loudest. The males bellow lustily during the spring mating season. For a reptile, the female is an extraordinary parent. After mating she builds a nesting mound near water, lays 20-60 eggs, covers them with vegetation, and guards them until they hatch, some 10 weeks later. The young may stay with her for a year or more, eating frogs, crustaceans, and aquatic insects; adults prey on fish, turtles, birds, and small mammals. The alligator's close relative, the slender-snouted American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), is a rare resident of brackish and saltwater swamps in southern Florida.
These creatures may grow to 15 feet in length. The snout is broad and rounded. Old adults are gray-black; the young black, with yellow crossbands. The preferred habitat of the American Alligator is brackish marshes, swamps, rivers and bayous.
Photo courtesy Curtis Miyasaka, Montgomery, Alabama
Copyright (c) 2006, CM