American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Origin: Southeast United States
Sighted at: The “Blue Hole” at the National Key Deer Refuge, Big Pine Key, Florida

 

This is one of two gators that make the “Blue Hole” in Big Pine their home. Big Pine Key is a large-ish island about 30 miles up the chain of the Florida Keys from where they end at Key West. I took a jaunt to the Blue Hole this past Friday specifically to try and spot the gators: happily, they were snoozing right next to the observation platform!

The American alligator is one of the only two living species of alligator in the world; the other species lives in China! Alligators are cousins to caimans, and are further-removed relatives of crocodiles!

The easiest way to tell alligators (and caimans!) and crocodiles apart is their snout: alligators and caimans have a stumpier, rounded snout, while crocodiles have a V-shaped snout.