Adult basking on a grassy mat, close to the water. The slightly agape jaws may be serving several purposes. Gaping may play a role in temperature regulation, so that evaporative cooling occurs from the moist, exposed palate. This serves primarily to keep the head and brain cool while the rest of the body warms. Gaping is also a threat response in many animals, alligators included. More severe threats are accompanied by much hissing.
Photograph © Tom Arnold, © Aris Multimedia Entertainment, Inc 1993.
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