Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article refers to the large reptile. For information on the place, see Alligator, Mississippi.
Alligators live in wet, stagnant, freshwater environments such as ponds, marshes, or swamps. Although alligators have heavy bodies and slow metabolisms, they are capable of short bursts of speed that can exceed 30 miles per hour. Alligators kill by biting their prey and then spinning and convulsing wildly.
Alligators are characterized by a broad snout and very dorsally located eyes compared to crocodiles. Both living species also tend to be darker in color, often nearly black (though Chinese alligators have some light patterning. Also, in alligators only the upper teeth can be seen with the jaws closed (in contrast to crocodiles, in which upper and lower teeth can be seen), though many animals bear jaw deformities which complicate this means of identification.
The name alligator is the Anglicized form of the Spanish phrase el lagarto (the lizard), as the conquistadors who came to Florida referred to it.
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