Scientific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
Wetland clearance and drainage and water pollution are the main threats to alligators. They are also shot by humans quite frequently because they are seen as a danger, however, alligators are much more timid than crocodiles and attacks on people are rare.
The American alligator is extremely adept for a life in the water. The tail is flattened on both sides like an oar and is used to provide propulsion through the water. The nostrils are situated on a bump on top of the snout so that the animal can breathe when the rest of their body is submerged under water or mud. The lungs are extraordinary, alligators can spend up to 5 hours under water without breathing. Their teeth are sharp and conical, designed for holding prey, not for chewing, so they must swallow their food in large chunks. Stones are swallowed from time to time and held in their stomach to help digest the food. Males are much larger than females reaching over 5m in length.
Alligators are found in the swamps and bayous of the southeastern USA. They stretch out in the sun early in the day, soaking up the sun's heat to enable them to carry out all their daily activities such as hunting, defending territories, etc. The winter months are spent dormant, often buried in the mud at the bottom of ponds and swamps.
The diet mainly comprises fish, amphibians, other reptiles, birds and mammals. Juvenile alligators feed mostly on insects for the first few months of their life.
During the breeding season, male alligators roar loudly, lifting their snouts and tails out of the water to warn off other males and attract females. Their body reverberates to such an extent during this behaviour that the water 'dances' on the alligator's back in a spectacular display. After mating, the female American alligator will usually lay between 20-60 eggs in a nest of decaying vegetation, which helps to keep the eggs warm. The mother alligator guards the area until they hatch, approximately 60-100 days later. When the babies are ready to hatch, they call to their mother, who scrapes away nesting material to release their young and will often carry the babies down to the water in her mouth.