Common Name: American alligator
Scientific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
At the zoo: Pandora (female, 27y)
Habitat: American alligators are found from the southern Virginia/North Carolina border, along the Atlantic coast to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico as far west as the Rio Grande in Texas. They live in and around freshwater swamps, lakes, and rivers. They often create burrows in their habitats, using their snout and tail, for shelter during colder temperatures.
They feed on birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, fish, eggs.
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Females usually reach 3 meters in length while males can attain up to 4.6 meters. Their nostrils are on the top of their snout, allowing them to breathe while the rest of the body is fully submerged and motionless in water. This allows the alligator to camouflage and ambush prey. Male American alligators are very territorial, especially during breeding season.
The American alligator has made a remarkable recovery due to conservation and research. There are some states where hunting is still allowed but is heavily controlled. Their greatest threat comes from destruction of habitat and increased levels of mercury and dioxins in the water.
Did you know that the temperature at which American alligator eggs develop is what determines their sex? Those that develop in warmer temperatures tend to produce females while cooler temperatures tend to produce males!