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Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Alligators are cold-blooded animals. This means that their body temperatures adjust to surrounding temperatures. When cold, they may become inactive and will search for a sunny area or dig down into the mud under water. Alligators are generally more active when the weather is warm.
Only the alligator's head and part of its back are visible above the water when an alligator swims at the surface. This makes it easier for an alligator to approach its prey undetected. Foods an alligator may eat include fish, turtles, mammals, birds, dead animals and other alligators.
South Florida, along the southern shores of Everglades National Park, is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together (The National Park Service). Alligators are commonly seen in freshwater areas throughout Florida and throughout the Everglades. The alligator is Florida's official state reptile.
Alligators play an important role in Everglades ecology. Their movement through swamps and marshes opens channels for other aquatic animals to use. Also, in the winters dry season, alligators find depressions in the landscape and clear out the mud and vegetation with their feet and snout. These "gator holes" form small ponds, which serve as a moist habitat for the alligators as well as other small critters such as fish, turtles, snails, snakes and frogs. Waterbirds and mammals visit these ponds for food and drink. (Carmichael and Williams, 1991)
Carmichael, Pete and Winston Williams. "Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians." Tampa, Florida: World Publications, 1991.
"Everglades National Park." The National Park Service. Internet address: http://www.nps.gov/ever/.
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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