Friday, June 12, 2009
Alligators - Florida's Most Famous Residents
From the earliest days of the exploration of Florida, alligators have been the focus of marvel and curiosity. The unique reptiles have played a rich role in the history of the state and continue to do so today.
The earliest known drawings of alligators were made by the French artist Jacques LeMoyne. His sketches, drawn in the 1560s, show Indians battling, killing and cooking alligators. One of the monsters in LeMoyne's artwork is easily over 20 feet long.
The largest alligator verified by modern methods was a 19' 3" specimen discovered in Louisiana, but early naturalist William Bartram reported much larger ones in Florida during the late 1700s:
I have seen them twenty feet in length, and some are supposed to be twenty-two or twenty-three feet. Their body is as large as a horse....
Like many many other species that produce their young from eggs, alligators were almost wiped out during the 20th century. The insecticide DDT was widely applied in Florida and other Southern states to battle the fire ant infestation. While the chemical did not harm alligators and other species, it unfortunately weakened the shells of their eggs. As a result, the number of hatchlings dropped dramatically and populations of alligators and other birds and animals plunged.
Careful conservation methods, however, saved the alligator and the mysterious reptile has made a dramatic comeback. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/alligators1.