When Spanish explorers first arrived in the murky swamps of Florida, they encountered giant swamp monsters. These enormous, armor plated, snaggle toothed reptiles were sometimes called dragons, but the name that stuck was simply "the lizard," or in Spanish el lagarto. Thus was coined the name of one of the most well known of the world's crocodilians - the American alligator.
The Alligator is a large, broad snouted crocodillian from the American Southeast. They are found in swamps and marshes, along riverbanks, in pools, ponds, lakes. They can swim in brackish and salt water but cannot drink it, restricting them to mainly freshwater habitats. They dig burrows for refuge, and will dig large pools or "alligator holes" to collect water in dry conditions. These alligator holes are important for the survival of many aquatic and semi-aquatic species when the rest of the swamp dries out. Alligators will hibernate in the winter, and have been known to be frozen in ice with just their nostrils protruding so they can breathe.
Alligators are valued for their leather, but regarded as a nuisance when they invade swimming pools, golf course water hazards, and other residential water sources. Alligators will happily eat dogs and other small pets, but only rarely attack humans. Nearly exterminated in the mid 20th century, alligators have made an impressive comeback with conservation laws protecting them and alligator ranching reducing the incentive to poachers.
Alligators can range in size up to Huge size as for the largest bulls, although Moderate, Medium, and Large sizes are more typical. There are occasional reports of Giant alligators, but they do not seem to reach this size in modern times.
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