(A Brief Life History)



Kingdom:                                  Animalia                                    Order:                                      Crocodylia

 Phylum:                                    Chordata                                   Family:                                     Crocodylidae

Sub-Phylum:                             Vertebrata                                 Sub-Family:                              Alligatorinae

Class:                                        Reptilia                                     Genus:                                      Alligator

                                                                                                   Species:                                    Alligator mississipiensis   


The American alligator and the American crocodile are genetically very similar, however, there are appearance differences between the two groups that can distinguish each group.  The American alligator’s head is more broad and rounded snout than the American crocodile which has a more slender and pointed snout.  The American alligator’s teeth have corresponding sockets that hide the teeth of the bottom jaw from sight, while the American crocodiles teeth (especially the fourth tooth from the front) projects outward showing both top and bottom teeth giving the crocodile a ‘toothy’ appearance.


The American alligator inhabits the southeastern United States including Alabama, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.  American alligators prefer freshwater swamps, bayous, lakes, rivers, and marshes.  The American alligator will occasionally reside in brackish water however it can only tolerate the water for a short time due to the salinity and lack of a salt-secreting gland.  


The American alligator diet differs throughout life.  When the alligator is young, their diet consists of mainly small fish, frogs, and invertebrates (mainly insects).  As the alligator grows into a sub-adult and adult, it tackles larger prey such as, larger fish, turtles, mammals, and birds.  The American alligator will basically eat anything that gives the alligator an opportunity to attack.


Breeding for the American alligator occurs in the spring when the water temperatures begin to rise.  Female alligators become sexually mature at around six feet in length.  Courtship rituals can last for hours, which include bellowing by the male, back and snout rubbing, head smacking (communicate visually and aurally), olfactory cues (musk glands), and body posturing.  The female creates a large mound of dead and decaying organic matter to lay her eggs in.  The heat created by the dead and decaying matter acts as an incubator for the eggs.  The female alligator guards her eggs from predators and adds or removes organic matter which regulates the temperature.  After the young hatch, they vocalize their presence, which summons the female which assists in excavating the young and helping them to water nearby.  The female will guard the young for up to two or three years (fluctuates). 


The American alligator is listed as threatened by the federal government due its similar appearance to the American crocodile.


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