The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina.
The type of food eaten by alligators depends upon their age and size. When young, alligators eat fish, insects, snails, crustaceans, and worms. As they mature, progressively larger prey is taken, including larger fish such as gar, turtles, and various mammals, particularly coypu and muskrat, as well as birds, deer, and other reptiles. Their stomachs also often contain gizzard stones. They will even consume carrion if they are sufficiently hungry. In some cases, larger alligators are known to ambush dogs, Florida panthers and black bears, making it the apex predator throughout its distribution.
Adult male American alligators measure 3.4 to 4.6 m (11 to 15 ft) in length, and can weigh up to 453 kg (1,000 lb). Females are smaller, measuring around 3 m (9.8 ft).Alligators aren't picky about what they eat. They are carnivores, so any type of prey is a meal to these reptiles. Alligators may eat fish, mollusks, birds, small mammals and other reptiles. Though carnivores usually only eat meat, alligators will also munch on fruit.
The breeding season begins in the spring. On spring nights, alligators gather in large numbers for group courtship, in the aforementioned "alligator dances". The female builds a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. After she lays her 20 to 50 white eggs, about the size of a goose egg, she covers them with more vegetation, which heats as it decays, helping to keep the eggs warm. This differs from Nile crocodiles, which lay their eggs in pits.
Special Behavior/Unique Anatomy
Large male alligators are solitary, territorial animals. The largest males and females will defend prime territory. Smaller alligators can often be found in large numbers in close proximity to each other, because smaller alligators have a higher tolerance of other alligators within a similar size class.
Alligator forerunners and relatives have been around for a very long time. The largest was Deinosuchus, a 40 foot alligatoroid that lurked in coastal habitats all over North America around 70 million years ago. Damaged bones suggest that unwary dinosaurs were a regular part of the “terror croc’s” diet. Fortunately, today’s American alligators don’t come anywhere close to measuring up.