Not too long ago, the American Alligator was on the brink of extinction. Through a number of conservation efforts, these amazing creatures thrive today. American Alligators can be found throughout the swamplands of the southeastern United States, and many of these alligators call the Everglades home.
Scientists believe that the American alligator is more than 150 million years old. That means that these alligators once shared the same space as dinosaurs! Even though most other species that shared breathing space with dinosaurs are now gone, the American alligator lives on. During your Everglades tour, you are bound to run into one or two of these ancient creatures.
Alligator Food: What these Larges Beasts Eat
Male alligators can grow up to fifteen feet while female alligators can reach up to nine feet. These long and powerful creatures often prey upon amphibians, snakes, turtles, birds, fish, and nearly any mammal that gets in the way. Baby alligators (called “hatchlings”) tend to feed on smaller pretty such as spiders, snails, and worms.
Alligators always have an appetite. It is not uncommon for large male alligators to attempt to kill and eat any mammal that goes into, or near, alligator infested water. Deer, boars, sheep, and cattle are all fair game within the alligator world. Alligators have even managed to kill small panthers.
What Gators Mean to Biodiversity
Scientists consider alligators a “keystone” species. In other words, alligators are a vital part of their ecosystem. Alligators control the population of certain menacing predators. In addition, alligators create nests that many other species use. Even though alligators eat turtles, the Florida Red-bellied turtle uses alligator nests to incubate turtle eggs.
Alligators also create peat (a type of soil) while building nests. As you can see, alligators are an integral part of their ecosystem. While these creatures were once nearly extinct, millions of alligators thrive throughout the southern United States today.
While it’s truly awe-inspiring to look at different alligators, it’s also important to exercise caution while around any type of alligator. Since alligators see all creatures as potential food, it’s never a good idea to stand near an alligator – no matter how much you want to snap a photo!
Since alligators have no problem eating smaller mammals, allowing your dog to go anywhere near an alligator will mean a certain death. During an Everglade tour, it is best to stay with your guide at all times. It’s also wise to leave your dog at home – the Everglades is a dangerous place for a pet!