Alligator feeding habits unveiled with a little help from National Geographic’s Crittercam
Researchers wrestle alligators for more information
Alligators munch on smaller prey about once every 2 hours
Alligators are most successful in early morning hours
Researchers teamed up with National Geographic’s Crittercam department in hopes of catching some of the more difficult to monitor alligator habits.
Alligators and crocodiles have been studied for years; however some of their habits remain as obscured as some of the waters they inhabit. Many of the difficulties faced are due to their activity at night, and the muddy, murky waters they live in.
“Top predators, particularly crocodilians, can have pretty important impacts on the rest of the food web,” said lead author James Nifong.
Armed with Crittercams and perhaps a bit of tape, the researchers set out to harness 15 alligators in hopes of gaining more information. “You tape their mouth shut, usually you’ll just put body weight on top of them, and you cover their eyes up so they’re not stressed out … sometimes it takes two or three people to hold them down. You always have to be on your toes, states James Nifong.
The Crittercams worked marvelously well, shedding light on habits observed both day and night, even in the murky habitat.
The Crittercam was designed to be worn as a backpack, sitting in between the alligators’ shoulderblades. Once the time was up on a predetermined timer, the Crittercam was designed to detatch itself, rise to the top of the water, and emit a radio signal alerting the team of its location.
After viewing the alligators’ habits gathered from the Crittercam, it was observed that alligators typically hunt at night and in the early morning hours. The highest success rate was determined to be between the hours of 4am and 9am. It was also found that alligators often (about once every 2 hours) snack on smaller prey such as shrimp, crabs, and fish. Alligators tend to have the best success when submerged.
The new information shows alligator habits “that have never been observed from the point of view of the alligators,” states James Nifong.