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The American alligator is the largest reptile native to North America with most individuals ranging from 8 feet to 12 feet in length and weighing up to 1000 pounds. The largest gator on record was reported to be 19.8ft long but there are many doubts on the accuracy of the measurements.
American alligators are native to southeastern United States from Texas to Florida and north to Georgia.
Found only in bodies of freshwater, American alligators can be found in rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes.
Juvenile American alligators will feed on insects, frogs and small fishes while adults feed on fish, turtles, snakes and mammals.
Young gators can be preyed upon by birds, raccoons, and even other larger alligators. While adult alligators are considered apex predators, the invasive Burmese python has been known to prey upon smaller gators.
Breeding typically occurs from late April until early June with males using roars, head slaps and complex body positions to court females. Females lay between 25 to 60 eggs in a large nest of mud and vegetation, which they will fiercely protect. The temperature that the eggs are incubated will determine whether offspring are mostly male or female.
Once the young have hatched, they will produce calls to which the mother will respond. She will gently carry 8-10 hatchlings in her mouth at a time to lead them to safety. A young alligator may stay with their mother for up to 2 years.
Scientific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
Size: African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds
Range/Distribution: The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin ranges from Namibia to South Africa. Young penguins have been known to migrate north and west along the coastline and are found between Southern Angola, Namibia, and sometimes found off Gabon, Congo, and Mozambique, but generally reside in South Africa.
Appearance: The African penguin has a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
Habitat: When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
Prey: African penguins feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight.
Predators: African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.
Life Span: The African penguin may live up to late 30 years in an aquarium or zoo but averages of 15-20 years are seen in the wild populations.
Mating Behaviors: There are no set breeding seasons for African penguins, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures. The chicks will hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.
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