CyberDodo and the Alligators (1-39)
First of all, what are crocodiles? Although they belong to the crocodilian species, they are a separate family, that of alligatoridae, which have morphological differences from their cousins the crocodiles, particularly their heads.
Their family consists of 2 species, Chinese and American alligators, which constitute another major difference from crocodiles and which are more widely distributed throughout the planet.
There are only a couple of alligators in China still living in their natural habitat, the survival of the species is nevertheless ensured through zoos and reserves which try to preserve individuals with this aim in mind. It is therefore another species that man is leading to the brink of extinction; this terrible list is only getting longer every year.
The situation of alligators in America is fortunately not the same and their number exceeded more than a million at the turn of the 21st century, however, the constant reduction of their territories is subject to concern about the future. The survival of the species seems to be ‘guaranteed’ by intensive breeding, for their skin and meat, in thousands of farms across the Southern United States.
What are their main characteristics?
Alligators are cold-blooded animals, amphibians and egg-layers; their average size is between 3 and 4 metres and they weigh between 300 and 500 kgs. They can only live in fresh water or swamps, contrary to crocodiles which can adapt to salt water.
But these figures are only average, because their development is strictly linked to the climatic conditions of their habitat, the hotter it is, the more they grow. On the contrary, low temperatures slow down their metabolism in the digestion of food until they reach sexual maturity.
Generally, they reproduce towards the age of 7-8 years. After mating, the female prepares a nest by gathering materials from the surrounding vegetation, where she lays 20 to 40 eggs. The sex of the little ones also depends on the temperature, if it is hot in the nest (more than 34°), males will be born, if it is cold (less than 30°), they will be female. Let us point out that the female does not sit on her eggs, it is the decomposition of the elements used to make the nest which maintains the temperature.
From the time they are born, after about 65 days of incubation, the little ones are independent, although the female does try to protect them. A difficult task, since their main predators include alligators themselves, which do not hesitate to eat the little ones who make the mistake of crossing their paths.
Therefore taking into account the predations, it is not rare to have a mortality rate of 50% during the first year. It is estimated that only one young one out of twenty reaches adulthood!
Are alligators dangerous for man?
Although they are a lot less aggressive than their cousins the crocodiles, they remain extremely dangerous, particularly because in normal weather they run away from man and this encourages certain insensitive people to penetrate their territory at the risk of their lives.
It must always be remembered that on land they can run as fast as man. As for when they are in the water, it goes without saying that they are acting in their element...
These terrible meetings have always caused deaths that could have been avoided if the savage instinct of alligators had been respected.
What do alligators feed on?
They are opportunists that eat insects, grasshoppers, snails, crabs, fish and other crustaceans, turtles, serpents as well as birds, including bigger prey such as raccoons, stags or wild boars.
Their metabolism also helps them to rest for long periods without eating.
How long do they live?
In captivity, they can live as long as man, since individuals have lived for more than 70 years. In nature, the specialists estimate that they live for between 40 and 50 years.
Do you know that alligators have enormous strength in their jaws, but only when it comes to closing them? Indeed, they are capable of exerting several tonnes of pressure when they close their mouths, but a man can stop them from opening their mouths simply by keeping them closed with their hands.
In reality, they should never be controlled!
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