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Alligator’s Life Cycle


A typical adult American alligator’s weight and length is 360 kg and 4.0 m, but they sometimes grow to 4.4 m long and weigh over 450 kg. The Chinese alligator is smaller, rarely exceeding 2.1 m in length.
No average lifespan for an alligator has been measured. On records, a one-year-old specimen was brought to the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia from Germany In 1937. It is now 76 years old. Although no valid records exist about its date of birth, this alligator, officially named Muja, is considered the oldest alligator living in captivity.

Alligators are native only to the United States and China. American alligators are found in the southeast United States: all of Florida and Louisiana, the southern parts, with over a million alligators in each state. Southern Florida is the only place where both alligators and crocodiles live side by side. American alligators live in freshwater environments, such as ponds, marshes, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and swamps, as well as in brackish environments. When they construct alligator holes in the wetlands, they increase plant diversity and provide habitat for other animals during droughts. They are, therefore, considered an important species for maintaining ecological diversity in wetlands. Further west, in Louisiana, heavy grazing by nutria (coypu) and muskrat are causing severe damage to coastal wetlands. Large alligators feed extensively on nutria, and provide a vital ecological service by reducing nutria numbers.
The Chinese alligator currently is found only in the Yangtze River valle and is extremely endangered, with only a few dozen believed to be left in the wild. Indeed, far more Chinese alligators live in zoos around the world than can be found in the wild.
Large male alligators are solitary territorial animals. Smaller alligators can often be found in large numbers close to each other. The largest of the species (both males and females defend prime territory; smaller alligators have a higher tolerance for other alligators within a similar size class.
Although the alligator has a heavy body and a slow metabolism, it is capable of short bursts of speed, especially in very short lunges. Alligators’ main prey are smaller animals they can kill and eat with a single bite. They may kill larger prey by grabbing it and dragging it into the water to drown.
Most of the muscle in an alligator’s jaw evolved to bite and grip prey. The muscles that close the jaws are exceptionally powerful, but the muscles for opening their jaws are comparatively weak.
Alligators are generally timid towards humans and tend to walk or swim away if one approaches.

The type of food eaten by alligators depends upon their age and size. When young, alligators eat fish, insects, snails, and worms. As they mature, progressively larger prey is taken, including larger fish such as gar, turtles, and various mammals, particularly nutria and muskrat, as well as birds, deer, and other reptiles. Their stomachs also often contain gizzard stones. They will even consume carrion if they are sufficiently hungry. As humans encroach into their habitat, attacks are few but not unknown. Alligators, unlike the large crocodiles, do not immediately regard a human upon encounter as prey, but may still attack in self-defense if provoked.
Alligators generally mature at a length of 6 feet. The mating season is in late spring. In April and May, alligators form so-called “bellowing choruses”. Large groups of animals bellow together for a few minutes a few times a day, usually one to three hours after sunrise. The bellows of male American alligators are accompanied by powerful blasts of infrasound. Another form of male display is a loud head-slap. Recently, on spring nights alligators were found to gather in large numbers for group courtship, the so-called “alligator dances”.
In summer, the female builds a nest of vegetation where the decomposition of the vegetation provides the heat needed to incubate the eggs. The sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature in the nest and is fixed within seven to 21 days of the start of incubation. Incubation temperatures of 86°F or lower produce a clutch of females; those of 93°F or higher produce entirely males. Nests constructed on leaves are hotter than those constructed on wet marsh, so the former tend to produce males and the latter, females.

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