Friday, June 19, 2009

Bio Lesson #3

This lesson was spawned from a strange nightmare I had last night. I started doing research for my own amusement; then, I decided I should share it.

The dream was weird. I was scuba diving. I have no idea where I was but the water was beautiful - crystal clear and warm. There was a strange island - it was made of some sort of rock that probably doesn't exist; this rock had some sort of magnetic repulsion towards water and the edges of the island actually hovered several inches over the water. Near the edges, under the water, was long arms of rock that swayed and moved because of the reaction between the stone and water; it created these little currents that created a perfect habitat for various species of sea life. I was exploring and all of a sudden, this dark shape swam up from the bottom of the ocean. It scared the hell out of me - everything around it was crystal clear but it was blurry until just in front of me. An alligator. I reached into a pocket (as I have never been scuba diving before, I don't know if wet suits have pockets or not) and pulled out a bottle of perfume (I have no idea why I had perfume in the ocean). I don't know what kind of perfume it was; I squirted it a couple times and this threw the alligator off. I started to swim back towards the surface; that's when the alligator had a change of heart and decided that I looked like a good meal. I woke as it sank it's teeth into my leg.

Now, granted, I woke up to find Pippin (a cat), who apparently thought that my foot was a toy under the blankets, sinking his claws into my calf. And it was thundering, which may have accounted for the sounds of boats passing by in the dream. *shrug*
American Alligator

Alligators are natives to America and China. There are two living species of alligators, Alligator mississippiensis (American gator) and Alligator sinensis (Chinese gator). In the U.S., they are found from North Carolina to Florida and west to Texas. The largest populations are found in Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. They're living fossils that have survived on earth for about 200 million years!

Unlike my dream, they are freshwater creatures, though they will also inhabit brackish waters, found in wetlands. Adults will eat just about anything that comes near the water, but hatchlings are limited to small prey like snails, spiders, worms, and small fish. In America, they are the top predators in the environments they inhabit. A current danger to the alligators are Burmese Pythons, which have been introduced into the Everglades. Battles between these two creatures are 50/50 - sometimes, the alligator wins but there have been cases of alligators found in the stomachs of pythons.  

Alligators lay eggs in nests located in sheltered spots near the water. The sex of hatchlings is determined by temperature. 86 degrees or lower produces female alligators; 93 degrees or higher produces males. Hatchlings stay with their mother for about five months, during which time the mother is extremely protective of her young because several creatures - birds and larger water animals - will feed on hatchlings. Eight to thirteen years later, the alligator reaches maturity. They are usually around six feet in length at this time. Males can reach lengths up to 15 feet while females average at nine feet.

The american alligator was once on the endangered species list due to overhunting for its skin, but was removed in 1987.
Chinese Alligator

The Chinese gator is smaller than the American, growing to an average size of five feet, and is fully armored, even on the stomach (unlike their American cousin). It is a critically endangered species but are prolific in captivity but attempts to reintroduce captive alligators to native lands hasn't been successful. They are still used as a source of food in China (who doesn't give a good goddamn about animal rights) and are believed to be a cure for colds and to prevent cancer.

(Photos and information curtesy of wikipedia.org)

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