One of Florida's most important species, the American alligator is found throughout the Southeastern U.S. Born at about 9 inches long, they typically reach 10 or 11 feet as adults and feed on fish, turtles, snakes and mammals.
A crocodilian (the family to which alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials/gharials belong) gets most of its food in water and takes to water for protection, but it loves to bask on sunny banks. Females must have land on which to lay their eggs. (Gators are cold-blooded and can't generate their own body heat.) These prehistoric predators are important because they dig "alligator holes" (up to 40 feet long below ground) that help store water during Florida's dry season — helping to maintain the fragile Everglades. As one of the largest, most prevalent predators, alligators fill an important role in population control of other animals.
Alligators are so prevalent in Florida that a roadway has been named in their honor: Alligator Alley, a section of highway 75 that runs from Naples to Weston, is the place to spot the animal alongside (or in) the road.