Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis)
Although the Chinese alligator may not be one of my favorite animals (although the Gray wolf is), I still figure that it’s an interesting animal worth blogging about.
Fun Fact: The Alligator symbolizes many things such as strength, honor and even magic.
Body and Skeletal Structure:
The Chinese alligator is typically between 8 to 15 ft (2.4-4.5 m) long and weighs from about 50 to 90 lbs (22.7-40.8 kg)
Fun Fact: The Chinese alligator is one of the smallest crocodilians.
The Chinese alligator is covered with hard sales on the back while they have softer scales on the sides and belly. These scales are typically a dark green-black color. They also have up to 6 rows of 17 bony scales running along the length of the body with paired ridges running halfway down the tail that turn into a single ridge that ends at the end of the tail. They have bony plates on each upper eyelid and upturned snouts as well. Juveniles are typically black with bright yellow cross-banding. As adults mature, the coloring of their scales becomes less conspicuous.
This alligator is a nocturnal, opportunistic and carnivorous, meaning it eats meat, predator. Their preferred prey animals include fish, snakes, and turtles, though they are also found eating rats and ducks.
Most Chinese alligators live to be about 30-70 years old.
Mating Season: Summer
Incubation Period: 2 months
Clutch Size: 10-40 eggs (Average size: 35)
Fun Fact: Baby alligators are called hatchlings.
Communication and Behavior:
The Alligator is a solitary predator that is actually very clunky when moving about on land. They tend to be quite slow as they move themselves by either crawling or sliding along the slippery banks on their bellies. They are also highly territorial animals that are known to make a variety of noises to represent different things, including the claiming of territory, finding a mate, and the hatchlings warning their mother that they are in danger. Male Alligators however, do not appear to be as vocal. They usually make noise around the breeding season when they are known to growl and bellow to fend off competing males. Both do use body language as another form of communication as well. For example, they can snap their jaws as a warning signal.
Chinese alligators are also typically dormant around winter, when temperatures are cool. They create burrows on the banks of wetlands that are approximately 3.3ft (1 m) deep, 1 ft (~0.3 m) in diameter and 5 ft (~1.5 m) long. Burrows are used throughout the year, but mainly in the winter. These burrows may house more than one alligator on occasion. Once they emerge from their burrows around April, they spend time basking in the sun to raise their body temperature because they are ectothermic and cannot create their own heat. Once their body temperature has normalized, they return to their normal nocturnal ways. They are aquatic animals (that use their long, thick tail to help them move around in the water), and can therefore also use the water to thermoregulate by staying in the upper water columns heated by the sun, or moving to shaded waters to cool off.
Fun Fact: Chinese alligators are thought to be the most docile of the crocodilians.
Habitat and Range:
Chinese alligators naturally live in marshes and swamplands, but most now live in agricultural pools within reserves.
The Chinese alligator is critically endangered. They are threatened by habitat degradation, mainly deforestation and water pollution. There are thought to be less than 100 individuals in the wild, and is sadly on the verge of extinction.