American Alligator at Circle B Bar Reserve in Florida.

Meet the Amazing Alligator



Introduction  |  Taxonomy, Phylogeny & Etymology  |  Distribution & Population  |  Ecology

Anatomy & Physiology  |  Diet & Digestion  Thermoregulation  |  Reproduction  |  Neonate Care  |  Ethology

Survival  Human Conflict  |  Cultural & Commercial Impact  |  Conservation


Prime Observation Locations  |  Bibliography  |  Filmography  |  Suggested Publications  |  References



An alli gator afloat in water reflecting the gold of a sunset.AMERICAN ALLIGATOR

Alligator mississippiensis


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Superorder: Crocodylomorpha

Order: Crocodilia

Family: Alligatoridae

Genus: Alligator


(Image: istockphoto/LarryLynch)



11. Survival


LONGEVITY. The alligator is a relatively long-lived animal, which may live the age of 35-50 years in the wild or up to 80+ years in captivity. While there have been unconfirmed claims of alligators living for more than a century, the maximum age of any crocodilian species is unknown.


One of the oldest known 'gators ever is one that was featured as a juvenile in the 1932 movie, Tarzan the Ape Man, starring Johnny Weissmuller; this alligator, as of this writing, is living in a private facility in central Florida.


"Muja", an alligator kept at the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia, may be 85 years or age or older. The zoo claims that the reptile came to the facility as an adult in 1936.


Muja the alligator at Belgrade Zoo."Muja", seen here, is probably more than 85 years old. The alligator, which reportedly survived World War II and NATO bombing in 1999, lives at Belgrade Zoo in Serbia.

(Image: Новик А. Н.

Creative Commons license)


An alligator named "Saturn" is believed to have lived at Berlin Zoo in the mid-1920s, survived the 1945 Battle of Berlin, and was transferred after World War II to Moscow Zoo, where the reptile reportedly lives still, nearly 90 years old.


NATURAL THREATS. Disease and injury may effect the lifespan of individuals and thus the survival overall of the species, as they do with those of other animals. Even without human pressures, the alligator has a difficult and precarious life in its first few years. Eggs may be drowned in water, mistakenly crushed by the mother, or eaten by raccoons or other 1862 photo of hunters and dead alligator.mammals. Despite further protection from their mothers after hatching, the onslaught of larger animals like birds, fish, mammals and adult alligators taking them as prey results in only about four of 15 hatched alligators living to adulthood. Once it reaches about three feet in length, its only major predators are larger or stronger alligators--and humans.


THE HUMAN FACTOR. The American alligator in the long term outlasted prehistoric animal life to develop into its current form. Its numbers were significantly challenged by man by 1970, who killed it in large numbers by habitat contamination, for the lucrative demand for alligator meat, hide, for "sport and recreation", for a perceived threat to the safety of human habitation, including home sites and the needs of agricultural and industrial development.  pou may learn about other impact on alligators of humans in the "Human Conflict" section.


The image at left was captured in a Florida swamp in 1882, showing alligator hunters posing with their prey. (Image: Public domain)


POLLUTION. Alligators are known as "sentinel" species whose disposition in an ecosystem is an indication of the health of that system as a whole. A prime example of the revelation of the sentinel species is in the study of the effects of pollution at Lake Griffin in central Florida (among other such afflicted lakes in the region). Contaminants from agricultural and municipal activity have seriously harmed wildlife there -- alligators have suffered disruption of their developmental and reproductive endocrinal systems -- an indicator of what has happened to other animals at the lake due to human carelessness. Lake Griffin isn't the only aquatic system in the alligator's geographic range (or beyond) that is polluted. And this study has correlated with one of contaminated water that has been having a similar endocrinal effect on humans.


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