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PIC OF THE MONTH


Crocodilian images which reveal fascinating stories told from a visual perspective.


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Sepia Gators

Monochrome American alligators

June's Pic of the Month was taken by Israel Dupont while visiting the St Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida. Rather unusually, this is the first image I've featured that was taken with black and white film stock. This gives the photograph a definite sepia tone, and serves to highlight and enhance the fascinating textures and scale patterns that adorn alligators.

All crocodilians are covered with scales that vary in size and shape depending on their location - you can see this clearly from the photograph. Scales on the back (dorsal scales) are enlarged and rectangular, and beneath the skin they contain bony plates called "osteoderms" (literally "skin bones") which serve various functions including protection, thermoregulation and even locomotion. On the back of the neck these osteoderms are enlarged and referred to as "nuchal plates" - each species has a unique pattern of these nuchal plates, although they are always surrounded by more flexible skin with small, rounded scales that contain fewer and smaller osteoderms.

Scales on the flanks between the legs are usually much softer and more flexible, although the smaller and more heavily-armoured caimans are an exception. Scales serve specific functions - those on the belly are rectangular and smooth to minimise drag over the ground, those on the legs are harder on the leading edge to minimise injury, and small and soft underneath to assist flexibility. Scales on the tail are shaped to minimise drag but maximise surface area to push water backwards and propel the alligator forwards.


Would you like to enter your best photograph into the 2002 competition? Send me a photograph and I'll include the best here each month. The winner will be voted for in January 2003, and will receive an Ilfochrome print prize to be awarded in early 2003. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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