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Of these yearlings, 8 will become subadults reach 4 feet in length. The number of subadults that reach maturity 6 feet in length is approximately 5. These estimates are for a growing alligator population. As a population matures and has a higher percentage of large alligators , the survival rate would be expected to be lower, in part due to a higher rate of cannibalism.
Alligator eggs are susceptible to drowning, being crushed by the female, predation, and other less common calamities. Raccoons are the primary predator, although hogs, otters, and bears have been reported to depredate nests. Small alligators are eaten by a variety of predators including raccoons, otters, wading birds, and fish; however, larger alligators may be their most significant predator.
Cannibalism, intraspecific fighting, and hunting by humans are probably the most significant mortality factors. Very little information is available in the scientific literature on wild alligator diseases and parasites. They are not believed to be a significant problem for wild alligators. Alligators occur from southeast Oklahoma and east Texas on the western side of their range to North Carolina and Florida in the east. They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.
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Alligators are ectothermic -- they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures. Alligators are dormant throughout much of the winter season.
During this time, they can be found in burrows or "dens" that they construct adjacent to an alligator hole or open water, but they occasionally emerge to bask in the sun during spells of warm weather. The article at this link contains information about thermoregulation in Everglades alligators.
The most recent evidence indicates that crocodilians which includes alligators and dinosaurs evolved from a common ancestor that existed subsequent to the common ancestor that they share with other reptiles. So, even though alligators are classified as reptiles along with lizards, snakes, and turtles, they are actually more closely related to birds, whose direct ancestors were dinosaurs! While most reptiles have 3-chambered hearts, the heart of alligators, and all crocodilians, has 4 chambers, a trait shared with mammals and birds. The advantage of a 4-chambered heart is that oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood are separated, which results in more efficient respiration needed for the high metabolism of endothermic warm-blooded animals, and enables different pulmonary lung and systemic blood pressures, but is seemly over-complex for ectothermic cold-blooded crocodilians.
The single ventricle of the 3-chambered reptile heart allows some mixing of oxygenated blood with deoxygenated blood, which may help regulate their metabolic state. Crocodilians have evolved a shunt between the left and right aorta immediately above the ventricles to facilitate the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. Crocodilians also have a valve in the pulmonary artery that, when closed, forces deoxygenated blood to recirculate through the left aorta, which increases mixing.
This increased mixing helps crocodilians transition to a lower metabolic state, and enables them to dive for extended periods. Some scientists have hypothesized that the complex heart structure of crocodilians might indicate that they evolved from endothermic warm-blooded ancestors. The tell-tale eye-shine of an alligator and other nocturnal vertebrates is caused by a layer of cells called the tapetum lucidum a Latin phrase meaning "bright carpet". This structure is located beneath the photoreceptor cells rods and cones in the retina and reflects light back into these cells to increase the amount of light detected, which improves an alligator's vision in low light conditions.
In alligators this eye-shine is red, but it can be different colors in other species. For more information, see the documents at the links below. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators, the end result is the same. It is a violation of state law to do so. You cannot tame an alligator, and even small ones may bite.
In particular, never go near baby alligators or pick them up. They may seem cute and harmless, but mama alligator is nearby, and will protect her clutch. Remember that they're an important part of Texas's natural history, as well as an integral part of many wetland ecosystems. Read more about the American Alligator. Stay safe around alligators by following these rules: Keep 30 feet away from alligators at all times.
If you get too close, back away slowly. Do not assume that alligators are slow and sluggish. They are extremely quick and agile and will defend themselves when cornered. They rarely chase people, but they can outrun or out swim the fastest person for the first 30 feet. If an alligator hisses, it's warning you that you are too close.
A female protecting her nest or young may charge if you get too close, but will quickly return to the nest after you leave. Also avoid any group of small alligators under a foot long. Alligators often bask along the banks of ponds or streams. They are usually warming their bodies; they are not actively hunting. Often a basking alligator will have its mouth open.
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It is cooling itself, as alligators do not pant or sweat. Pets are the size and shape of common alligator prey. Do not let your pet drink from or enter the water in alligator habitat. Alligators have a keen sense of smell.