Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Reptilian Brain

There are two species of alligators: the American alligator and the Chinese alligator, neither species is endowed with what one would call superior intelligent. Neither are the owners of this cat.


           I grew up in Florida. We lived on a lake, swam in that lake, saw alligators in that lake--even witnessed a fight between two large male alligators. What we were smart enough never to do was feed the alligators, or let our dogs swim in the lake without someone watching for 'gators.
           Alligator are poikilothermic (cold-blooded) which means their body temperature is at the mercy of their surroundings. On cold nights, alligators stay underwater because water loses heat to the atmosphere slowly. When the air warms up, and the sun is out, gators sunbath. People mistakenly assume these large, lumbering, groggy-looking reptiles are too slow to be dangerous. Far from it. Gators are capable of alarming bursts of speed. Their main prey of small (cat-sized) animals, which they can kill and eat in a single bite, are taken in split second lunges.     

cuteanimals4you.com

           In a behavior called the 'death roll,' large prey are grabbed, and dragged under water. The gator then spins, twisting off bite-sized chunks.  
           From Wikipedia:
"Most of the muscle in an alligator's jaw evolved to bite and grip prey. The muscles that close the jaws are exceptionally powerful, but the muscles for opening their jaws are comparatively weak. As a result, an adult human can hold an alligator's jaws shut barehanded. It is common today to use several wraps of duct tape to prevent an adult alligator from opening its jaws when handled or transported. Alligators are generally timid towards humans and tend to walk or swim away if one approaches. In the state of Florida, it is illegal to feed wild alligators at any time. If fed, the alligators will eventually lose their fear of humans and will learn to associate humans with food, thereby becoming a greater danger to people."
         The laughing, happy owners of this tourist attraction are feeding the alligators which will eventually lead to the killing of this cat. You can see in the second video how close these kids are to the gators. Like any good, suspenseful monster movie, it's likely that at some point, when these gators are larger and totally unafraid of humans, a customer will be snatched off this Louisana mudback and experience, first hand, albeit briefly, the death roll.         

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