Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Honor of Earth Day

Since it's earth day, I thought I would talk about an extant species of Crurotarsi, the America alligator (Alligator mississipiensis), and its importance to the everglades ecosystem.

The American alligator is considered a keystone species, meaning that it plays a vital role in its ecosystem (and can be used as an indicator of that ecosystem's health). The major contribution of the alligator is its "gator hole". Alligators dig their holes as refuges during the dry season, but these hole don't just serve the alligator. The gator holes are vital sources of water for fish, birds, turtles, and many other species, and they end up being a convenient source of food for the alligators. Alligators also provide a service through the building of their nests. Several turtle species rely on these nests to lay their own eggs.

The American alligator was put on the endangered species list in 1967. They were killed for their skin and also because they were considered a nuisance. However, after laws were passed to protect the alligators, they rebounded and were removed from the endangered species list in 1987.

Everglades NP - The American Alligator in Depth
The Keystone Species Concept

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