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Days of Thunder

Alligator bellow

Glenn Baker is a prolific and keen photographer of Florida wildlife, and he's been sending me a variety of pictures of crocodilians over recent months. This month I set him a task - try to obtain a picture of an American alligator in the middle of a ground-shaking bellow. As you can see, he succeeded.

In April and May each year, American alligator males advertise for females. Their principal method of impressing potential mates is to bellow. The alligator lifts its head and arches its tail, everts musk glands under the chin and cloaca, and produces perhaps the most characteristic of crocodilian signals. The bellow involves a lot of low-frequency sound, much of it below our threshold of hearing. This is called "infrasound" and it travels long distances through the water. The intensity of vibrations that the alligator produces is so great, it literally causes shallow water over its back to "dance" for a brief moment. This is illustrated nicely in Glenn's picture, where you can also see waves of pressure pulsing outwards across the water's surface. If you are a female alligator, there is no greater aphrodesiac. For humans, the very ground beneath your feet rumbles like a jet taking off. You can appreciate its appeal.



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. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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