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Golden Gator

American alligator in sunlight

It's not only the light that makes April's Pic of the Month special, it's the behavior that's being displayed. Laurie Excell has captured this American Alligator seconds before displaying one of the most spectacular behaviors in the crocodilian world - the bellow of an adult male. It is often difficult to appreciate crocodile and alligator behavior, as their language often appears so alien to us. However, once you begin to understand a few of their signals, a whole new world opens up. In this case, the alligator has lifted its head out of the water and inflated the throat (actually achieved by lowering the tongue rather than puffing air into its mouth), two very obvious signals particularly if your eyes are at water level... as any other alligator's would be. From this viewpoint, slight changes in head, tail and body postures suddenly appear much more dramatic - it completely changes the apparent size and intentions of the animal that is making the display. The signals that follow this, namely arching the tail, inflating the body as it rises out of the water, and then producing a gutteral vocal signal followed by infrasonic vibrations that make the water dance, have quite a profound effect if you happen to be in the water nearby!

This picture was taken at the St Augustine Alligator Farm, although the lagoon where it was taken is both large and natural. It is easy to witness courtship behavior at the right time of year, typically May and June. In fact, if you're reading this and you're in Florida you might want to visit captive or wild alligators to witness their spectacular courtship displays for yourself. I don't recommend trying to experience it from the viewpoint of another alligator, however - even on the safety of the bank, it's really extremely impressive.



Would you like to enter your best photograph as a potential Pic of the Month? Send it to me and I'll include the best here each month. Each year I run a competition where the best photograph each year is awarded an Ilfochrome print. This year there will be a special prize to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of this website. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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