Alligators And Nature
By Obiabin Onukwugha
Alligators are large reptiles and members of the order Crocodylia. They are closely related to crocodiles.
Alligators are distinguished by its wide, rounded snout and black color. When an alligator rests with its jaws closed, only its upper teeth are visible. Alligators can grow up to 11.2 feet (3.4 meters) long and weigh nearly half a ton (1,000 lbs. or 454 kilograms), according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
They are social creatures and often gather in groups called congregations. These groups are typically seen basking in the sun or taking a swim.
Alligators regulate their temperature externally. Like most reptiles, they are ectothermic or cold-blooded. That means that they are unable to control their temperature internally. On sunny days, they can use the edges of bodies of water to warm up, or enter the water to cool down. When it gets too cold, alligators have also been known to spend more time in the water, which holds some warmth longer than the outside air.
Scientists say Alligators can reach speeds of up to 35 mph on land (though they’re known to tire quickly). And in the water, they can reach a top speed of 20 mph, which is faster than a bottlenose dolphin. They also have a lot more stamina in the water than on land.
alligators can leap up to five feet out of the water to snag their dinner. They do this by pushing themselves up with their tails, and the maneuver’s.
It is said that the average alligator will lose about 2,000 teeth over the course of its lifetime. Luckily, they are able to regrow new teeth almost as quickly as they lose them, and at any given time they may have up to 80 teeth in their mouth.
With all these teeth, alligators has great biting power. Its bite is strong enough to cut through steel.
Called “agu iyi” in Igbo, “alaƙa” in Hausa and “alupupu” in Yoruba, Alligator can love between 35 to 50 years in the wild.
Alligators also use water to hunt. On land they may look awkward, but in the water they can swim very quickly using their tails. This makes it easier for them to catch prey.
Alligators aren’t picky about what they eat. They are carnivores, so any type of prey is a meal to these reptiles as they eat fish, mollusks, birds, small mammals and other reptiles. Though carnivores usually only eat meat, alligators will also munch on fruit.
During reproduction, Alligators mate in June. Males may fertilize several females in one mating season, but females are known to have only one mate each season.
Female alligators are protective, caring mothers. In July, the female alligator creates a nest from mud, plants and sticks in which she lays her eggs. The Chinese alligator can lay 10 to 50 eggs at a time.
The temperature of the alligator’s nest determines what sex the offspring will be, according to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Females are born when the nest temperatures are below 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius), and males are born from temperatures above 91.4 F (33 C). A temperature of 87.8 F (31 C) will produce an even number of males and females.
As the eggs incubate in the nest, the female watches over them. In September, when the babies are ready to hatch, she helps them by removing debris covering the nest. She may also help the babies by breaking the shells with her mouth.
As soon as they are born, the babies, called hatchlings, can catch their own food.
These creatures also have ecological benefits. As alligators move from gator holes to nesting mounds, they help keep areas of open water free of invading vegetation. Without these ecosystem services, freshwater ponds and shrubs and trees would fill in coastal wetlands in the alligator’s habitat, and dozens of species would disappear.
Why Alligators live in the water
Once upon a time, Anansi and the big alligator were good friends. One night when Anansi was out late, he went to the alligator and said, “Dear brother, it’s quite late. Will you please let me sleep here tonight?”
“No problem, you can stay here for the night,” the alligator said politely.
Anansi said to the alligator, “Thank you very much for letting me stay, but I don’t want to bother you much. So I will make myself comfortable in your kitchen, and you can sleep comfortably in the house.”
During those times, there was usually a kitchen built of stone outside every house. Anansi wanted to stay in the kitchen for the night.
“Alright, Anansi. If you insist, you can sleep in my kitchen.”
The alligator’s daughter was a wise girl. She knew that Anansi definitely had some motive behind sleeping in the kitchen. She had overheard the conversation between Anansi and her father.
So she came up with an idea and went out and caught as many scorpions as she could. The Alligator’s daughter knew that at night Anansi would definitely look into the kitchen pots for some food. So, she carefully placed the scorpions into the empty pots.
The alligator and Anansi both wished each other goodnight and went to their respective places to sleep.
It was completely quiet at night and one could hear nothing except for the palm trees swaying in the wind. Anansi waited for everyone to fall asleep. At midnight, he got up quietly and crawled towards the pots. Unknown to her, Anansi had seen her fill some of the pots with scorpions. He did not touch them and took out food from the rest of the pots. He ate all he could and was very contented.
After finishing the food in the kitchen, he started yelling and sucking his hand. The alligator woke up with the noise and asked Anansi if he was comfortable.
“Dear brother, the dog fleas are eating me alive. I cannot stay here anymore,” Anansi said and left the house immediately. After all, he was scared that the scorpions would escape from the pot and bite him at night.
The aligator’s daughter was suspicious of Anansi. She checked if all the food in their pots was intact. She was shocked to find that Anansi had eaten up all the eggs that they had stored in the pots.
“Daddy, Anansi has eaten up all our eggs. Please go out and catch him immediately,” Ama said to the alligator.
The alligator rushed out of his house. While being chased by the alligator, Anansi finally reached the river bank
Anansi saw a boat man preparing his boat for sailing. “Take me to the other side of the river and I will give you half my land,” Anansi said to the boatman. The boatman agreed at once and Anansi quickly slipped into his boat. The alligator swam after him but could not catch the boat.
Once the boat reached the shore, Anansi asked the boatman to wait, and said that he was going to speak to his father about the land. The boatman waited patiently.
Anansi went to his father and narrated the entire incident to him. He instructed his father to tell the alligator and the boatman that he did not know where he was. Anansi started climbing the nearby tree.
After a while, the boatman came to Anansi’s father and asked about him.“I haven’t seen him in days. I have no ideas where he might be,” the father told the boatman.
A little while later, Anansi saw the big alligator approaching him and climbed another tree. Anansi called out to find out if the big alligator could see him.
The alligator looked everywhere but could not find him.
“I will never live in a house again if I can’t find you now,” the alligator said.
He looked and looked but could not find Anansi and that was how the alligator started living in the water ever since.