Balls - 1 Essays

Submitted By robertyohnson
Words: 2366
Pages: 10

For over 200 million years Crocodilians have roamed the earth as apex predators. They are a ferocious family of reptiles that has stood the test of time and become one of the most successful hunters on the planet. These ancient animals are beautiful, powerful, and deadly. The often veracious attitude of the species in the Crocodilian family, and the strong fear that humans have towards them, has led to an aggressive relationship between man and the beast. Particularly in the Southeastern United States, humans and the American Alligator, Alligator Mississippiensis, have had a long and harsh relationship. In Florida, the American Alligator (also called a gator) has gone from plentiful bounties, to nearly becoming extinct, and then back to the healthy population that it is at today of about a million. The story of the American Alligator is one that is full of both tragedy and success. The alligator habitat consists of primarily freshwater ecosystems, which includes wetlands, lakes, and ponds. In the wetland and shallow lake and pond ecosystems the alligator is considered a keystone species. During time of drought, gators dig what are called “gator holes”. These holes, usually six to seven yards across and several feet deep, hold water in times of drought. While other parts of the marsh and swamps are dried up, these areas swarm with a high diversity of organisms attempting to utilize the last bits of water left (Whitney 2004). Because crocodilians are cold blooded the range of alligator range is limited to lower latitudes. The furthest north the American alligator is found is along the North and South Carolina coast. The furthest west Gators can be found is in eastern parts of Texas, especially along the Gulf of México (Toops 1979). The diet of an adult alligator is just about anything they can get. Their main technique to capture prey is to remain mostly submerged under the water’s surface and try to slowly creep up on prey either in the water or at the water’s edge. When in place they launch themselves forward. Alligators may seem sluggish most of the time but on land they can run up to 30 miles per hour for short distances, and in the water they use their huge and powerful tales to easily and graceful push themselves through the water. After getting the prey close enough, the gator will bite down with 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, one of the strongest bites in the world (Crawford 1992). Prey of the alligator can include fish, birds, turtles, snakes, mammals, and amphibians. The hatchlings tend to prey on invertebrates, insects, larvae, snails, spiders, worms, and other small prey (Science Daily). Gators are able to mate and reproduce at about 8 to 13 years of age. Alligators find a mate by doing what is called bellowing. They make a sure sound by making a vibration in its throat. This sound attracts potential mates to the area (U.S Fish and Wildlife Service). The dominate male in the area is usually the one that gets to mate with the female. After a few days of courtship, usually just consisting of the pair remaining close to one another, copulation takes place. The actual mating season occurs from mid-April through May. Two month after courtship the female will make a nest on a high bank, out of waters reach, usually consisting of saw grass and cattails. Around 35 eggs are laid in early June and hatch usually around mid-August when water levels are normally the highest and food is plentiful. Females will protect the nest during incubation and protect the hatchlings, after which the babies will usually stay with the mother for about a year (Troops 1979). When European settlers’ first start to try to live in in the mid to late 1800’s Florida, the alligators were amazingly abundant. There were actually so many that they were considered a nuisance and dangerous, so the settlers killed them to protect livestock and for sport. Shortly after this they began to value alligators for their hides