The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America. Adults reach up to 19 ft. 2 in. in length. Male alligators, or bulls, are generally larger than females. Males will commonly grow to 12-14 feet, while females are found commonly reaching sizes of 8-9 feet and practically never found larger than 10 feet. An alligator's tail accounts for half of its length. On average, they weigh from 450 to 600 pounds. The alligator is distinguished from the American crocodile by its shorter, rounded snout and black color.
Alligators are cold blooded animals that will stop eating if their body temperature falls below 76 degrees Of the 23 species of crocodilian, alligators are the only one found throughout the gulf coast states and even up the eastern seaboard into the Carolinas The American Crocodile and in lesser numbers, the South American Caimen are found in the southern tip of Florda The alligators environment is typically subtropical, while other crocodilian live in a warmer tropical environment The alligator can survive without eating longer than any other crocodilian, going nearly six months every year without a meal.
Alligators are typically found in marshes and swamps, as well as bayous, rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks and canals. Alligators thrive well in fresh water, but prefer a slightly salty water, referred to as intermediate, which is less salty than brackish. They cannot survive for extended periods of time in salt water.
Females build a nest in marshy areas and along shorelines. This nest of marsh grass rots producing the heat needed to keep the eggs alive for the 63 day incubation period. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. The mother checks on her nest often, instinctively maintaining it if disturbed by other animals When the young hatch, they peep or chirp, informing their mother that it is time for her to remove the nesting material so that they can get out. They are unable to get out of the nesting material on their own, but are typically able to break their egg and birth themselves. Some babies will not hatch themselves and in this case their mother will scoop the egg up into her mouth, chew on it ever so softly and her baby will be born in her mouth. She may even walk that baby to the waters edge in her mouth and gently drop it in for its first swim.