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AMERICAN ALLIGATOR } Alligator mississippiensis

RANGE: Southeastern United States

STATUS: Although alligator populations are considered stable, this species is listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to its similarity to other endangered crocodilians. The American alligator is considered a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

THREATS: Habitat degradation, illegal poaching

Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth in a massive extinction event. But the alligator managed to survive, and today, along with its crocodilian relatives, it’s the closest living relative of the dinosaurs it has outlived. This ancient species means business, with plates of body armor covering its body and the strongest bite force of any animal on the planet – so strong that trying to pry a gator’s clenched jaws open would be as impossible as lifting a pickup truck. Despite the fact that they have no vocal cords, alligators are among the most vocal reptiles, producing low, reverberating bellows that make water droplets on their backs dance from the vibrations.

Photo © Don Jeane