|Photo Credit: nationalzoo.si.edu|
Alligators are efficient predators and eat just about any animal that comes near, including fish, small mammals, birds and reptiles. They rarely attack humans unless provoked.
American alligators once faced extinction. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service placed them on the endangered species list in 1967. Fortunately, the legal protection worked. Just 20 years later, American alligators were taken off the list.
An average male American alligator is 10 to 15 feet (three to five meters) long. Half of its length is its massive, strong tail. An alligator can weigh as much as half a ton (1,000 pounds), but an average male weighs between 500 and 600 pounds (227 to 272 kilograms). Females are usually smaller than males.
Alligators are carnivorous. They have very strong jaws that can crack a turtle shell. They eat fish, snails and other invertebrates, birds, frogs and mammals that come to the water's edge. They use their sharp teeth to seize and hold prey. They swallow small prey whole. If the prey is large, they shake it apart into smaller, manageable pieces. If it is very large, they will bite it, then spin on the long axis of their bodies to tear off easily swallowed pieces.
Did you know?
American alligators live about 50 years in the wild. After they are 4 feet long, alligators are safe from predators except humans and occasionally other alligators.