American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are large, tough and imposing reptiles that, in line with their handles, reside in the United States, specifically in its southeastern portions. These proficient swimmers are members of the order Crocodylia. Physically speaking, male and female specimens are similar, but not 100 percent alike.
The largest populations of these carnivorous creatures area found in Louisiana and Florida, although their range encompasses all of the southeastern states, from North Carolina down the Atlantic Coast and west to Texas. Common living environments for American alligators are bayous, marshes, lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. American alligators feed regularly on things such as frogs, snakes, turtles, birds, fish and tiny mammals. Juveniles feed on lots of bugs, wee fish and snails. These alligators in general aren't too choosy about their meals, however, and often eat whatever they can access, sometimes even household pets.
One physical characteristic that often sets male and female American alligators apart from each other is size. The males of the species are markedly bigger than the females. The boys typically grow to just over 11 feet long, while the girls usually grow to a little more than 8 feet. These alligators are the biggest reptiles on their home continent of North America.
Specimens of both sexes share distinctive armored physiques. Their bodies are adorned in scutes, which are dense and bony slabs. Both genders also share similar coloration. The upper parts of their bodies are usually black, deep gray or brownish-black. Their lower parts, however, are off-white.
American alligators usually attain reproductive maturity when they grow to 6 feet in length, regardless of sex. The breeding season for American alligators starts in April and lasts into May. Males of the species are highly turf-oriented during the season. Mating activities occur at night. The males lure the females through wooing behaviors such as pressing up against their physiques, bellowing and spinning around.
Incubation typically lasts for 60 to 65 days. Clutches usually contain between 20 and 50 eggs or so, and the youngsters emerge from their eggs in August. Once the offspring are born, the mothers are fiercely protective of them, often for more than 3 years. The fathers generally do not take care of any "child-rearing" responsibilities.
Male and female American alligators differ in that the individuals of the fairer sex typically reside in significantly more compact hunting grounds. Males of the species tend to travel a little more, with home bases that sometimes exceed 2 square miles. When it comes to mating season, however, specimens of both genders widen their geographic scopes -- all in the quest to find their next mates.
- National Geographic: American Alligator
- Defenders of Wildlife: American Alligator
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: American Alligator
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Alligator mississippiensis
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: American Alligator
- Texas Parks & Wildlife: American Alligator
- NatureWorks: American Alligator
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Alligator Mississippiensis