An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. There are two extant alligator species: the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis). The name alligator is an anglicized form of el lagarto, the Spanish term for "lizard", which early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator. Alligators have a variety of successful adaptations to their ecological niche that have allowed these reptiles to remain almost unchanged since the Cretaceous. The alligator is notorious for its bone-crushing bites. In addition, the alligator has been described as a "living fossil", having been extant for 200 million years, beginning in the Mesozoic Era.
A large adult American alligator's weight and length is 800 pounds (360 kg) and 13 feet (4.0 m) long, but can grow to 14.5 feet (4.4 m) long and weigh over 1,000 pounds (450 kg). According to the Everglades National Park website, the largest alligator ever recorded in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches (5.31 m), although according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission web site the Florida state record for length is a 14 feet 5/8 inches (4.28 m) male from Lake Monroe in Seminole County. The largest specimen ever recorded was found in Louisiana and measured 19 feet 2 inches (5.84 m). The Chinese alligator is smaller, rarely exceeding 7 feet (2.1 m) in length. Alligators have an average of 75 teeth. There is no measured average lifespan for an alligator. A specimen named Muja has resided in the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia since 1937, making it at least 73 years old. Another specimen, Čabulītis, in Riga Zoo, Latvia died in 2007 being more than 75 years old.
When young, alligators eat fish, insects, snails, crustaceans, and worms. As they mature, progressively larger prey is taken, including larger fish such as gar, turtles, various mammals, birds, deer and other reptiles. Their stomachs also often contain gizzard stones. They will even consume carrion if they are sufficiently hungry. Adult alligators can take razorbacks and deer and are well known to kill and eat smaller alligators. In some cases, larger alligators are known to ambush dogs, Florida panther and black bears, making it the apex predator throughout its distribution. As humans encroach onto their habitat, attacks are few but not unknown. Alligators, unlike the large crocodiles, do not immediately regard a human upon encounter as prey, but may still attack in self-defense if provoked.
Human uses Alligators are raised commercially for their meat and skin, which is used for bags and shoes.
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