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American Alligator Food Habits in Northcentral Florida

Michael F. Delany and C. L. Abercrombie
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 50, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 348-353
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3801926
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3801926
Page Count: 6
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American Alligator Food Habits in Northcentral Florida
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Abstract

Stomachs from 350 American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) collected in conjunction with 1981-83 experimental harvests on 3 lakes in northcentral Florida were examined for food habits. Common invertebrate foods of subadult alligators were giant water bugs (Belostoma spp.), apple snails (Pomacea paludosa), and crayfish (Procambarus penninsulatus); common terrestrial foods were round-tailed muskrats (Neofiber alleni) and marsh rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris). Larger size classes primarily consumed Florida red-bellied turtles (Pseudemys nelsoni), peninsular cooters (P. floridana), stinkpots (Sternotherus odoratus), gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), and Florida gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus). When compared by sex female alligators consumed significantly (P = 0.04) more mammals. Reptiles (turtles) were more important (P = 0.04) in the diet of male alligators. No differences (P > 0.05) were apparent in diets between study area lakes. Alligators in Florida consumed more fish and turtles but fewer mammals than in other parts of their range. Alligator marking tags recovered from 5% of the sample suggest some juvenile mortality may be attributable to cannibalism. Fish and amphibians are probably under-represented in the sample, and turtles, snails, crayfish, birds, and mammals may be overemphasized because of differential digestion rates. Diverse wetland habitat may benefit alligators by providing a variety of foods for different size classes.

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