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