The American Alligator: An Overview
The American Alligator
The American Alligator; a predator that has evolved since Prehistoric times to become the top predator of freshwater ecosystems. The American Alligator is, hence the name, only found in North America, even more specifically, in the coastal areas of Southeastern United States, from North Carolina down to Texas. These predators are reptiles that mainly prey on fish, small mammals, snakes, and turtles, although they are opportunisitic hunters, meaning they will feed on anything they can. Their size ranges from 10 to 15 ft, however the largest one recorded was 19 feet long. They mainly inhabit swamps, rivers, and lakes, being adept and extremely effective swimmers, but a bit lumbering on land.
The female American Alligator lays her eggs on land, and when they hatch, she carries them in her mouth carefully to the water. This is the extent of alligator motherhood. Once they are in the water, they are essentially on their own. The hatchlings are 6-8 inches long, so they are an ideal snack to predators, including other alligators. Many hatchlings will not survive into adulthood, although they are equipped with natural camoflague to aid them in survival. Most young alligators will stay in the shallow pools with heavy vegetation to use as camoflague, and adult alligators will rarely hunt in these shallow areas. Once the alligator is big enough to not be eaten, it can venture out deeper into its habitat and become the fearsome predator that defines Southern swamps and marshes.
The American Alligator was heavily hunted for its skin for use in the production of alligator skin products, such as boots and handbags. However, since they were almost extinct, the alligator has become protected and been on the rise, now considered as a "recovered" species, meaning they are no longer endangered, but are not abundant. There are still captive breeding programs for the American Alligator, and the alligators are a huge attraction in zoos all over America. There have also been many federal habitat protection programs for the American Alligator, preserving the swamps and lakes that they inhabit, these programs allow the alligators to recover their populations without the threat and pressure of human development and contact.
The American Alligator is an ancient predator that has ruled the freshwater world ever since it came into existence. With armor-like scales, a muscular tale, and razor-sharp teeth, these predators dominate their ecosystems, and are here to stay.
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