The alligator is classified in the Crocodylia order, and family of alligatoridae. The species is called the Alligator Mississiooiensis. The name comes from the Spanish word of el lagarto, meaning the lizard. All American Alligators, male and female, have a strong body of Armor, along with a flat, muscular tail. This armored skin has what are known as osteoderms along the back, which look like bony plates on the animal. The legs of an American Alligator are very short and are not made for running, with the front having five toes each, and the back having four. Both male and female alligators will have a very long snout, with nostrils that point upwards at the very end so they can slither across the top of the water and still breath. An American Alligator with yellow strips along the tail is a young one- as they mature into adults, the stripe darkens considerably. The female alligator can reach up to about 8.2 feet in length, and the male up to 11.2 feet at full maturity.
The American Alligator is found throughout many states, from North Carolina all the way into Texas. They prefer freshwater, and can be found in bodies of water that are slow moving, these include swamps. marshes and ponds. They cannot stay in saltwater very long because they lack salt glands. The American Alligator is a carnivore, meaning its diet consists almost completely of meat. Their jaws are so strong they can easily break a turtle’s shell in one bite (imagine what it could do if you got your hand caught in its mouth). In the wild, they will feast on mostly any type of animal that they can reach, including frogs, turtles, mice, rats and even birds. An American Alligator in a controlled environment, such as a zoo, will be fed rats, chickens and rabbits.
When the American Alligator reaches a length of six feet or so, they have achieved sexual maturity. This takes at least 10 to 12 years. The male American Alligator will roar loudly to both attract the female and to keep other males away during the courting phase of its life. During the courting phase the male alligator will circle around the female, until he is ready to mount her. The male will start courting the female in April, but the actual mating will not begin until the beginning of May.
As with anything, there are many myths surrounding the alligator. Rumors sometimes fly about the big one, as many people believe they can get over 20 feet in length. In reality, the largest American Alligator caught on record was 19 feet, which is pretty close to 20ft, but in reality most don’t live long enough to get to this length. In fact most alligators do not surpass 13 feet in length even at full maturity. Another well known myth is that an alligator will chase people, which is not true. They may move aggressively towards a human if they are near a nest, but most alligators will shy away from humans, as they are too big to be prey. If you are confronted with an alligator back away slowly until you are a safe distance and then turn and run. Most of the time, much like with many animals that attach, they are aggressive because they are attempting to scare predators away from their young.