Florida alligator

Florida alligator

By: Johan

Florida Alligator classification
The Florida Alligator is also known as the American Alligator. It belongs to the genus Alligator in the family Alligatoridae in the order Crocodilia. Its scientific name is Alligator mississippiensis.

There are two species of extant alligators, both belonging to the genus Alligator. The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) lives in southern United States, while the Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis) lives along the lower Yangzi River in China.

In the family Alligatoridae you can also find the Caimans, who are similar to the Alligators but live in Central and South America where they have developed a few notable anatomical characteristics that makes them easy to tell apart from the Alligators. Alligators and Caimans are closely related to crocodiles and belong to the same order as the crocodiles, Crocodilia.

Florida Alligator description
The adult male Florida Alligator can reach a length of 10-14 feet, while the females tend to stay around 6-8 feet in lenght. Just like all the other crocodilians the Florida Alligator have a non protrusible tongue, a heart with four chambers and a single penis. The scutes in the back and tail regions are strengthened by bony plates.

The Florida Alligator colouration is pale underneath and dark above, since this makes the animal camouflaged in the water. The dorsal part of the Florida Alligator is of a brownish or olive shade, while the dorsal surface is cream-coloured or display a pale yellow shade. The dorsal part of the Florida Alligator will usually become covered in algal growth over time.

Florida Alligator vs. Crocodile
The Florida Alligator (American Alligator) looks at lot like a crocodile, but the alligator head is much wider and shorter and the snout has a more obtuse look. The crocodile is renowned for its grinning expression with visible teeth. The upper and lower teeth interlock and the crocodile is also equipped with an enlarged 4th tooth in its lower jaw. In the upper jaw of the crocodile, you can see an external indentation in which the enlarged 4th tooth fits. The tooth will therefore be seen pointing upwards in a tusk-like fashion when the crocodile closes its jaws. In the Florida Alligator, the teeth are much less visible when the jaws are closed since the lower row of teeth fits inside the upper row of teeth. Just like the crocodile, the Florida Alligator is equipped with an enlarged 4th tooth in the lower jaw, but in the alligator this tooth fits into an upper jaw pit and is therefore not visible when the jaws are closed.

In addition to the differences described above, you can tell a Florida Alligator apart from a crocodile by looking at its hind legs and feet. The hind leg toes of the Florida Alligator are webbed no more than half way to the tips. The Florida Alligator is also without the characteristic jagged fringed that can be seen on the hind legs and feet of all crocodiles.

Crocodiles are highly adaptable when it comes to salinity, while the Florida Alligator strongly prefers fresh water environments. Unlike the crocodiles, the Florida Alligator have no specialized glands that can filter out the salt. 

Florida Alligator vs. Caiman
Caimans live in Central and South America. Unlike the Florida alligator, the Caimans have no bony septum between its nostrils. The ventral armour of the Caiman consists of overlapping bony scutes; a feature that is not found in Florida Alligators.  

Alligator Articles:

Florida Alligator Facts
Florida Alligator Habitat
Florida Alligator Hunting


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