American Alligator
Alligator mississippiensis

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.

Juvenile alligator

Photo courtesy Curtis Miyasaka, Montgomery, Alabama
Copyright (c) 2006, CM

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