San Diego, CA
Florida - Where The Alligator Smiles
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© Christine Till
Today there are only two species of alligator on earth, the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis). Those who live in Florida have to share the space with a very large reptile, the American alligator (Alligator mississipiensis). The name 'alligator' is widely believed to have come from the Spanish name 'el lagarto'. This eventually changed into "aligarto" and then "alligator" by English settlers.
The family Alligatoridae first appeared about 35 million years ago. After surviving nearly unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, and having virtually no natural predators as adults today, alligators were headed for extinction only 20 years ago due to intense hunting from man. Protecting the species and alligator habitats has allowed the status to be changed from endangered to threatened. They are an important part of their ecosystem - they control the population of prey species, create peat through their nesting activities, and benefit several other species with 'alligator holes' and nests.
Alligators have inhabited Florida's marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes for many centuries. Because of their predatory nature and large size, they are known to occasionally attack pets, livestock and even humans. Although many Floridians have learned to coexist with alligators, the potential for conflict always exists. However, all it takes is a little understanding of the alligator's needs and habits to continue a long-term coexistence. Knowing where the alligator lives, how he behaves and what we can do to avoid conflict with alligators is key to sharing the available space safely.
April 28th, 2013
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