Chinese alligator

Alligator sinensis

SUBFAMILY

Alligatorinae

TAXONOMY

Alligator sinensis Fauvel, 1879, "Chinkiang" (= Zhenjiang/ Chinkjang/Chenchiang), Kiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. No subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Yangtze alligator, Tou lung, Yow lung, T'o, China alligator; French: Alligator de Chine; German: China-Alligator; Spanish: Alligator de China.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

A yellowish gray alligator with osteoderms on the belly as well as on the back and a heavy snout that tapers toward its vaguely upturned end. This is a small alligator that has an average total length of about 5 ft (1.5 m) in males and 4.5 ft (1.4 m) in females. Maximum lengths have been recorded at

Chinese Alligator Belly

about 6.6 ft (2 m) in the male and 5.7 ft (1.7 m) in the female. Young are similar to adults in appearance but have noticeable yellow banding.

DISTRIBUTION

This species occupies a small area in the Yangtze River basin along China's central Atlantic coastline.

HABITAT

The Chinese alligator inhabits the subtropical temperate eco-tone in marshy areas, ponds, lakes, and languid rivers.

BEHAVIOR

This species is dormant during the late fall, winter, and early spring and relatively inactive during much of the rest of the year owing to the cool temperatures in its geographic area. Each year in April, the alligators emerge from their winter burrows, which line still waters, and find sunny spots in which to bask. As summer begins, they switch to more nocturnal habits and begin their annual mating rituals. During courtship, bellowing from the males and females becomes pronounced, though they bellow at other times of the year as well.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The young prefer insects and other small invertebrates, whereas larger individuals also take fish, clams, and the occasional small mammal or waterfowl. They have blunt teeth adapted well to crushing shelled animals.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females mature at about five to seven years. Mating occurs in early summer, with the females building nests about two to three weeks later and laying up to four dozen eggs; fewer than two dozen is common. Hatchlings generally emerge in September. Females provide parental care, including assisting in the hatching process and carrying the newly hatched young from the nests, which are located on land, to the water. The life span of these alligators in captivity nears 70 years, and they can reproduce into their 50s.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The species is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Their decline is associated primarily with habitat destruction.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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