Alligators: the American Alligators and the Chinese Alligators

Topics: Alligator, Alligatoridae, American Alligator Pages: 7 (1170 words) Published: February 20, 2013
By: Rachel Charles

There are two main species of alligators in the world- the American alligator

and the Chinese alligator. The American alligator lives in the waters and lowlands of

southeastern United States. The Chinese alligator is found near Shanghai, but the

numbers have declined so much that this is now an endangered animal and is

virtually extinct. The Chinese alligator is much like the American alligator in its

habits and appearance. Other closely related reptiles are the caymans of Central and

South American.

An alligator is characterized by its broad snout and the lower teeth fit into

pockets in the upper jaw. On land they are very clumsy and cumbersome. In water

they use their tail as a propeller. Their eyes seem to stick up above their skulls so

that alligators can see above water while their bodies are beneath it. The skin of

alligators is tough, which is why it is often used to make purses and shoes. When

grown, the American alligator is a dull gray and dark olive color. It also has yellow

marks across its body, but theses fade after time.

The ears of an alligator are located just behind the eyes and are hidden under

flaps. The animal has a very acute sense of hearing and is able to detect sounds from

a great distance away. They spend most of the day in the water in holes because

they are unable to withstand any lengths of time in the high temperatures of the

natural habitat. When the weather is cool, they often come on land to lie on the

damp ground where the doze in the sun.

While alligators are still growing and maturing, alligators grow at a rate of

one foot each year. Alligators in the past grew to be 18 feet long or even longer. The

average size of an alligator today is about 9 feet, although in the early 20th century, it

was not an uncommon sight to see one that measured almost 20 feet in length.

At present, few alligators can be found that have reached even a length of 12 feet.

Male alligators from 11 to 12 feet long weigh between 450 and 550 pounds. Female

alligators seldom measure more than 9 feet long, or weigh more than 160 pounds.

Night is prime hunting time for alligators. The diet of a young alligator

consists of crayfish, shrimp, insects and small creatures. As they mature, the diet

progresses to larger animals, such as birds and frogs. Large males sometimes

attack dogs, pigs, or even cattle. They drag these animals under water to drown

them and then tear them to pieces. Alligators do this by grabbing hold part of their

prey with their jaws and twisting until that part come off. Fortunately, even the

largest alligators seldom attack human beings. The muscles that close and the

alligator’s jaws are very strong, but once the jaws are shut, a man can easily hold

them closed with his bare hands. During the summer they consume large quantities

of food because they hibernate from October to May and during this time they eat

very little.

Male and female alligators reach sexual maturity when they are about six feet

long. Breeding takes place during the night, in shallow waters. Males roar to attract

females and to ward off other males. May and June are the nesting periods for the

female alligators. They build huge nests that are often over three feet in height and

as much as six feet in diameter. The alligator lays her eggs in the center of the pile

where the nest is wet. The eggs are white, hard-shelled, and slightly larger than hen

eggs. The female alligator usually lays between sixty to seventy eggs and covers

them with plants and mud. She guards the nest until the eggs hatch, which takes

about nine weeks. The sex of the juveniles is determined by the temperature of the

nest: above 93° F are males, below 86° F are all females, and temperatures in

between will produce both sexes....
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