The animal of this book is an alligator. There are only two species of alligator: the American alligator (Alligator
mississippiensis), found in the southeastern coastal plain of the United States, and the smaller Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), found in the lower valley of the
Yangtze River. Both alligators are related to the more widely distributed crocodile.
The alligator is a much-studied animal, and so a great deal is known about its life
cycle. Female alligators lay 30 to 80 eggs at a time. The mother allows the sun to
incubate the eggs, but stays nearby. After about 60 days the eggs hatch, and the
young call out for their mother. The mother then carries or leads them to the water,
where they live with her for a year.
Alligators eat a varied diet of insects, fish, shellfish, frogs, water birds, and small
mammals. Alligator attacks on humans are rare. Although normally slow-moving ani-mals,
alligators can charge quickly for short distances when they or their young are
Alligators have been hunted extensively for their skin. The American alligator was
placed on the endangered species list in 1969, then declared to be out of danger in
1987. The Chinese alligator remains on the endangered list.