American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)
Average lifespan in the wild: 50 years
Size: 3 to 4.6 m
Weight: Up to 700kg
Conservation Status (IUCN): Least Concern
American Alligators are found in the freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States, primarily Florida and Louisiana. Alligators like all crocodilians are very well adapted swimmers, never venturing too far from the waters edge. Males average 3 to 4.6 metres in length and can weigh up to 700 kg. Females grow to a maximum of about 3 metres in length.
Hatchlings are around 15 to 20 cm long with yellow and black stripes when they first emerge from their eggs, they will lose these strips as they mature. Juveniles, which are preyed upon by predators including birds, raccoons, bobcats and even other alligators, usually stay with their mothers for about two years.
Adult alligators are at the top of the food chain and are critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They feed mainly on fish, turtles, snakes and small mammals. However, they are opportunists and a hungry gator will eat just about anything including carrion, pets and, in rare instances, humans.
One look at these amazing reptiles with their armored, lizard-like bodies, muscular tails, and powerful jaws and it is obvious they have been around for a long time. The species, scientists say, is more than 150 million years old, managing to avoid extinction 65 million years ago when their prehistoric contemporaries, the dinosaurs, died off.
Information courtesy of National Geographic Presenter Ben Britton