Wonder + Wildness

Chasing wonder on a science guided journey through the natural world in search of meaning, connections, and the courage to hope

Dispatches from Somewhere #5| American Alligator

This is one of my favorite shots I’ve ever managed to capture. I snapped this in 2015 at one of my all-time favorite parks, @brazosbendstatepark near Houston, TX. It sorta looks like she’s lunging forward, but in reality, she was sitting in a quickly flowing stream with her mouth open against the flow, presumably to catch fish or other critters that flowed by.

It’s estimated about 250 alligators over 6 feet long live within the over 1000 acres of water at Brazos Bend, and have been for the last 65 million years. They have practically continuously been there since the days of the dinosaurs. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

Alligator mississippiensis

A Powerful Bite

Alligators bite down with 13,172 Newtons (2960 pounds) of force, one of the most powerful in a living animal. Funny enough, all the strength is in the down bite. It’s actually quite easy to keep their mouth closed.

Powerful Blood

Alligators have a powerful antiviral serum in their blood which was shown to work against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1; IC50 = 0.9%), West Nile virus (WNV; IC50 = 4.3%), and Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1; IC50 = 3.4%).

They can climb!

Kind of. As long as there’s enough of an incline, they can climb trees. I include this as an apology to my wife for laughing at her for this question about 10 years ago.

Masters of Disguise

Suddenly Alligator Loki doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Scientists have observed Indian and American alligators placing sticks across their snouts at the water’s surface. Birds looking for nesting material swoop down to grab them, but end up in a toothy mouth instead.

No vocal cords required

Alligators don’t have vocal cords, but they can still make some pretty amazing sounds. They can hiss, gulp, and even bellow!

Big Bellies. little appetites.

Alligators can eat up to 23% of their body weight in one sitting, which is super impressive. That’s like me eating 104 Big Macs at once.

But they only eat like once per week. I can see why!

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