American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Sauropsida, order Crocodilia, family Alligatoridae
The American Alligator is native only to the southeastern United States.
The American Alligator has a large, slightly rounded body, with thick limbs, a broad head, and a very powerful tail. Adult male alligators are typically 13 to 14.7 feet long (3.96 to 4.48 meters), while adult females average 9.8 feet (2.99 meters). Male alligators may grow to 454.5 kg (1000 lb). The tail, which accounts for half of the alligator’s total length, is primarily used for aquatic propulsion. The tail can also be used as a weapon of defense when an alligator feels threatened. Alligators travel very quickly in water, are generally slow-moving on land and can lunge short distances very quickly. They have five toes in front and four in back.
Alligators eat almost anything, but primarily consume fish, birds, turtles, mammals and amphibians. Hatchlings however are restricted to smaller prey items like invertebrates. Insects and larvae, snails, spiders and worms make-up a big portion of a hatchling’s diet. They will also eat small fish at any opportunity.
Once an alligator reaches adulthood, any animal living in the water or coming to water to drink is potential prey. Adult alligators will eat razorbacks, deer, domestic animals including cattle and sheep, and are often known to kill and eat smaller alligators. In rare instances, large male alligators have been known to take down Florida panther and American black bears, making the American alligator the apex predator throughout its distribution.