Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alligator


The alligator belongs to the family Alligatoridae. Alligators are largely found in freshwater environments like the swamps, rivers, lakes and marshes of Africa. The average male alligator grows to a length of 3.4 to 4.5 meter(around 13 to 17 feet long), while the length of the average female alligator is 2.5 to 3 meter (9 to 11 feet long). Aalligators have a large, slightly rounded body covered with ruff scales. Their head is large with large eyes and nostrils, and they have powerful jaws with pointed teeth. The huge tail accounts for nearly half of its length, which it uses to defend itself from other animals and to float in water. The color of the skin is generally olive, brown, gray or nearly black, while its belly is pale. However, the skin of the young ones of an alligator (known as hatchlings) is typically black with yellow stripes.Alligators are carnivorous, and they mainly eat fish, birds, snakes, zeras, gazells, turtles and sometimes even dead animals. Hatchlings or young alligators mainly eat insects, tadpoles, frogs and small fish. Alligator's are also a freshwater animal. It thrives in wetlands like swamps, marshes, bogs, lakes and rivers. Although it can withstand salt water to some degree,and can sometimes be seen near brackish water like mangrove swamps, the wetlands are crucial for the existence of alligators. They construct burrows in the wetlands for shelter and hibernate during winter. African alligators reach the reproduction stage at 8 to 13 years of age and spring (April and May) is the time when they mate. Male alligators attract females by bellowing, and an interesting fact is that sometimes they use infrasound for that purpose. As alligators do not have vocal chords, this is done by sucking in air into their lungs and blowing it out at intervals, making low rumbling roars. The average number of eggs laid by female alligators vary between 25 to 60. After mating, they build nests by using vegetation, mud and leaves for laying eggs. After laying the eggs, mother alligators cover the eggs under more sand and leaves, which helps to keep them warm. The temperature at which the eggs are hatched, plays an important role in determining the sex of the young alligators. The eggs that are hatched at temperatures between 90 to 93 degree Fahrenheit turn out to be males, while those hatched between 82 to 86 degree Fahrenheit turn out to be females. However, intermediate temperature ranges are found to produce a mix of male and female alligators. The young alligators are generally 6 to 8 inches in length and they become independent almost immediately, in finding their food, but stay with their mothers for about two years, for their safety. The average life span of an African alligator is about 30-35 years, but they can live up to more than 50 years in captivity.

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