acrylic on canvas board
The American gator (Alligator mississippiensis) is one of two living species in the genus Alligator, inhabiting freshwater wetlands such as marshes and cypress swamps in the southeastern United States. Despite their bad reputation, alligators are important ecosystem engineers. For example, they dig small ponds known as alligator holes, that retain water during the dry season and provide habitats for other animals. Gators are also apex predators and contribute to carbon cycling in wetland ecosystems.
Another common misconception about reptiles is that they are dumb, at least in comparison to mammals. But recent research is starting to reveal that non-bird reptiles (turtles, lizards, snakes, alligators etc.) are not boring dullards but rather behaviourally complex creatures that get up to all sorts of interesting things. One of the fascinating new research articles revealed a surprising find: the ability of some species of Crocodilians (alligators and crocodiles) to use tools to hunt! American alligators amongst others have been observed to lie partially submerged beneath egret and heron colonies, with sticks balanced across their snouts. The sticks are an important resource for mating birds, and when they swoop in to collect them they quickly become a meal. Alligators only engaged in this trickery during the nesting season, and in areas where birds nest, which suggests that this behaviour is not random. However, the birds also have something to gain by nesting in gator territories, as these large reptiles help to keep at bay other predators like snakes, which might go after the birds’ nests.