alligator, brown alligator o common alligator (Caiman crocodilus) is a semi-aquatic reptile. The American is the reptile largest in North America and has been a successful predator for 200 million years.

Alligators are less aggressive than Crocodiles and hibernate for the winter. These large reptiles can have up to 80 teeth at a time, and they grow new teeth to replace the worn ones. In their entire life, they can wear between 2.000 and 3.000 teeth. The maximum length recorded for these animals is approximately 5,8 meters.

The alligator is an aquatic reptile.
The alligator is an aquatic reptile.

Species

  • Common alligator (Caiman crocodilus)
  • Black alligator ó C. Negro del Orinoco (Melanosuchus niger)
  • Yacaré (Caiman yacare)
  • C. de Cuvier (Paleosuchus palpebrosus)
  • C. Postruso (Paleosuchus trigonatus)
  • Yacaré Overo (Caiman latirostris)

Features

Alligators are small to medium-sized crocodiles, generally 1,5 to 2,1 meters in length. Historically, the maximum length reported was 6 meters. At current levels of exploitation, few specimens exceed 2,5 meters in length. The females are smaller than the males. Average adults are dull olive to nearly black in color with varying yellow or black cross bands. They have long snouts and their mandibular fourth tooth it is not visible from the outside of its closed jaw. The young are yellowish with darker bands and spots. A feature that helps distinguish the Caiman crocodilus of other crocodiles it is the presence of an infra-orbital bony bridge between the eyes. Subspecies vary in skull color and size.

Behavior

They usually live in small groups, but are generally solitary, except during mating season. They remain in the same territory and remain immobile most of the day. During the midday heat they remain submerged, from morning to afternoon they laze on the shore.

They are able to respond quickly to certain situations such as capturing prey. Alligators typically feed at night. During the mating season, they become territorial and aggressive. Social rank is determined by size, with the largest animals being the most dominant. Animals with a higher social rank tend to be more likely to mate during the mating season.

The ranges are not large and alligators generally remain in their ranges throughout the year. The size of the range varies depending on the structure and richness of the habitat.

Alligators use taste, touch, sound, and the visual senses for social and reproductive communication. The ability to detect vibrations in the water can aid in the detection of prey.

Habitat

Alligators are semi-aquatic animals, they live both on landAs in water and they are found in freshwater habitats, as well as some saltwater habitats. Are preferred rivers and wetlands, usually slow-moving. They are found in deep and shallow water as they only need enough depth to submerge their bodies.

Distribution

It is an animal native to northern South America, Central America, and certain parts of the Caribbean. They are native to the following countries: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad, Tobago, and Venezuela. They have been introduced in Florida, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The alligator spends most of its life in water.
The alligator spends most of its life in water.

Food

Alligators are generally carnivores. Prey changes as they grow from smaller to larger alligators. The alligator diet may include insects, snails, prawns, crabs, fish, Lizards, snakes, turtles, birds y mammals. Alligators have at least 105 prey in their diet.

Cannibalism can occur, especially under drought conditions, when many alligators of different sizes are concentrated in small areas. However, this species can be surprisingly non-aggressive and tolerant of temporary dense concentrations during the dry season.

Predators

During the nesting season, the pollero wolf (Tupinambis teguixin) can destroy up to 80% of alligator nests in some places. The ring-tailed coati (Nasua Nasua) y foxes they also attack nests. Small alligators are eaten by large fish, waders, large snakes, and other crocodiles. Adult alligators are able to defend themselves from most potential predators, except for the humans.

Humans often hunt them for their skin and teeth.

  • Known predators:
    • Pollero wolf (Tupinambis teguixin)
    • Ringed tail coat (Nasua Nasua)
    • Herons (Ardeidae) (For more information on the heron, click here)
    • Big fishActiinopterygii)
    • Other crocodiles (Crocodilia)
    • Anacondas (Eunectes sp.)
    • Humans (Homo sapiens)

Reproduction

Mating typically occurs in the wet season from April to August, depending on local climatic conditions. Males can reproduce with multiple females and females can reproduce with multiple males. Courtship behavior involves potential mates swimming together, rubbing backs, bellowing, touching snouts, circling each other, and blowing bubbles. Both sexes use these behaviors to attract their partners. After a female mates with a male, she builds a nest in the males' territory. There, the male and female will take care of the nest, the eggs, the young, once they have hatched.

The alligator reaches sexual maturity in sizes of approximately 1,2 meters for females and 1,4 meters for males, which corresponds to ages between 4 and 7 years. Social status affects the rate of growth and reproduction. Some younger and smaller alligators will not be able to mate due to social stress due to the presence of larger and more dominant alligators.

Courtship and copulation occur between May and August. The eggs They are set from July to November, depending on local weather conditions. The females lay 10 to 30 eggs. Incubation generally requires 65-104 days. Sex is determined by the temperature in the nest around the middle of incubation. The decomposing vegetation in the nest, which can be a meter high and 2 meters in diameter, can help retain temperatures at the proper level.

After hatching, parents can unearth the young from the nest and help them emerge from the eggshell. Once emerged, the young remain close to their parents for about a year and a half, receiving some protection from predators.

Nesting and breeding

After copulation, females, sometimes assisted by males, build a nest from the litter. The females lay their eggs in the nest and then cover it with more litter. The females, and occasionally the males, protect the nest from predators until they hear the call of the babies with squeaks similar to a growl. The females then help uncover the eggs and break open the shells to remove the young. At that time, the young remain close to their mother, and sometimes within the male parent's territory, for about a year and a half to gain additional protection against predators.

Parents may provide some leftover food for the young, but for the most part these baby alligators catch food for themselves. After the time mentioned before, a year and a half, with their parents, the minors disperse from their parents' territory. In some situations, they stay close to their parents longer.

Longevity

Very little is known about the life of the Caiman crocodilus. The longest known life expectancy in nature was estimated at about 60 years. However, 30 to 40 years can be the most normal. The half-life of captives is 20 years, with a record 24 years.

Role in the ecosystem

Alligators are predators of aquatic invertebrates, fish, and other aquatic and coastal vertebrates. In their native range they are important members of the riparian and aquatic communities. When alligators have been introduced outside their normal range, the alligators can have unpredictable, perhaps destructive, effects on prey.

They are smaller than crocodiles.
They are smaller than crocodiles.

State of conservation

In 1986 and 1988, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service included alligators on the list of threatened species. This was due to increased hunting pressure on their populations. It is currently listed as Least Concern (LC).

Alligators are heavily harvested for their skins to make leather products. The pet and curiosity trade has also been responsible for the decline in the local population. Alligator populations are still relatively stable in some parts of their range, although they are severely depleted or extirpated in many local areas, especially near human population centers.

Relationship with humans

Within their native range, the spectacled caimans are generally the most abundant crocodiles and are the species most captured by humans for the leather industry.

Alligators are potentially dangerous to humans and pets, and they occasionally attack livestock. Their smaller size compared to other crocodiles makes them less dangerous.

They become shy and avoid humans in areas where they are frequently hunted. Alligators have been introduced outside of their natural range, such as South Florida, and their potential negative effects on naive local wildlife need to be studied.

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