American Alligator: A Brief History
Crocodilia, originating more than 200 million years ago in the late Triassic Period natives to the super continent Pangea. Fossils of these early crocodilians were among the first vertebrates to be scientifically studied by pioneers of paleontology in the early 19th century. Unlike present crocodilians, their predecessor's had longer limbs and shorter snouts, making them more equipped for a terrestrial life.
This genus represents evolution at it's best. These living fossils have survived an array of mass extinctions including continental drift. Spawning 22 different species, all adapted to a more Amphibious life style, most well know being the American Alligator mississippiensis).
The American Alligator typically ranges from 10 to 15 feet, the largest being male, although the biggest on record ranges to 20 feet long. This unique animal has internal sexual organs, so a probe is needed to determine sex. Running down the entire back side of the alligator is a protective bony plate called osteoderms. On land they can reach speeds between 9 to 19 miles an hour, surprisgly they have also been known to survive temperatures as low as 26.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
In early June most of the Florida population of Alligators lay their eggs. The female will pile various vegetation from her environment together, then will repeatedly drag her body over to create a mound to nest her eggs. The eggs are about the size of an ostrich egg and she will lay between 30 to 40 eggs. They incubate for about 65 days. The temperature of the incubation determines the sex of the hatchlings. 90 to 93 for a male, 82 to 86 a female, with Crocodiles it is the opposite, the warmer eggs will be females, the cooler eggs will be males, this phenomenom is referred to as Temperature-Dependant Sex Determination or (TSD). When born these hatchlings are prey to anything in the environment so, evolution has equppied them with yellowish bands to camouflage them with their environment. Unusual for the reptile kingdom, the American Alligator is very protective of it's young and will guard the nest.
- Crocodiles and Alligators/ Consulting Editor Charles A. Ross/Editorial Adviser Dr. Stephen Garnett/ Illustrations Tony Pyrzakowsk
- Tim Walsh/ co - founder of The Florida Turtle Conservation Trust/Exhibit Manager of Nature Works at The Orlando Science Center in Orlando, Florida
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