It would be difficult to find someone in the southern United States unfamiliar with the ubiquitous "gator" either by sight, encounter, or taste. Fry batter aside, it's time we all learned a little bit more about Louisiana's official state reptile.
From Wikipedia: The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator or common alligator, is a large crocodilian reptile endemic to the southeastern United States. Adult male American alligators measure up to 3.4 to 4.6 m (11 to 15 ft) in length, and can weigh up to 453 kg (999 lb). Females are smaller, measuring around 3 m (9.8 ft). The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina.
Alligators are apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates.
They play an important role as ecosystem engineers in wetland ecosystems through the creation of alligator holes, which provide both wet and dry habitats for other organisms. Throughout the year, but particularly during the breeding season, alligators bellow to declare territory and locate suitable mates. Male alligators use infrasound to attract females. Eggs are laid in a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. Young are born with yellow bands around their bodies and are protected by their mother for up to one year.
The American alligator is listed as Least Concern by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. Historically, hunting had decimated their population, and the American alligator was listed as an endangered species by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and the species was removed from the list in 1987. Alligators are now harvested for their skins and meat.
Now book that swamp tour and bring your binoculars!