The name Alligator is derived from the Spanish "el lagarto" which means "the lizard" Alligators have a wide territory within the Southeastern United States including: Alabama, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
Primarily freshwater creatures, alligators live in swamps and marshes, but also in rivers, lakes and smaller bodies of water. They can tolerate salt water environments for short periods of time, but they lack the salt-secreting glands present in crocodiles which would enable them to withstand a life of salinity.
Adults males typically reach a length of about 12 to 14 feet, although the largest recorded alligator measured just under 20' in length. Females can reach lengths of just under 10'. The snout of an alligator is characteristically broad but can vary under environmental and genetic conditions.
Young alligators eat a wide variety of small insects, fish and frogs. Eventually, large adults can take down nearly all prey that comes within their range. While their diet generall will consist of fish, turtles, small mammals, birds and reptiles, alligators will also eat their own species.
Alligators, like all crocodilians, are opportunistic feeders and they have been known to kill small dogs and other pets. Alligators have also been known (in rare cases) to attack children and even adults. When left alone, alligators will stay away from humans and pose little threat.