5 facts that surprise people the most about alligators in Florida
1. They are opportunistic hunters
Alligators hunt species that are easily accessible and abundant in the wild. While most carnivores, like lions or wolves, actively seek out their next meal, alligators will wait for the opportunity to eat. Hiding in the thick marshland, alligators in Florida will usually eat insects, amphibians, fish, snakes, turtles, and other small mammals. However, that's not to say that they wouldn't go after a cow if given the opportunity!
2. An alligator's sex is determined by the temperature of their nest during incubation
A female Florida alligator lays between 35 and 90 eggs in late June to early July and covers them with a layer of vegetation to keep them warm. The incubation period lasts for 65 days. The alligator will be male if the temperature of the nest is above 93 degrees Fahrenheit during this incubation period. If the nest is below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the gator will be female. If the nest temperature is between 86 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit, then both genders are possible!
3. They are very different from crocodiles
Geographically, alligators primarily live in the southeastern United States and eastern China, while crocodiles live in Africa, Australia, southeastern Asia, North America, South America, and Central America. (However, did you know that southern Florida is the only place on earth where you can find alligators and crocodiles coexisting?) Another way to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile is by their snouts. An alligator's snout is broad and has a U-shape, while a crocodile's snout is more narrow with a V-shape.
4. Run straight away from an alligator, not zigzag
Most people say you can escape an alligator if you run in a zigzag pattern, but that's not really true. Have you ever noticed how an alligator bites by swinging their mouth left or right? That's because alligators are virtually blind straight in front of their nose, so running zigzag might actually help them spot you quicker.
5. An alligator's bite is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom
Imagine an alligator chomping down on its prey with its jaws. Scary, right? In fact, biology Professor Greg Erickson from Florida State University researched more about the strength of an alligator's bite and said, "If you were in the jaws of an alligator and trying to get out, it would be like trying to lift a pickup truck off of yourself." American alligators rank as having the third strongest bite force in the animal kingdom, following just behind the Salt Water and Nile crocodiles.