Birds

Alligators Eat Sharks

When it comes to marine ecosystems, who’s really at the top of the food chain? Sharks, Killer Whales, Dolphins? Think again.

Alligators Eat Sharks

It’s been well documented in the past, that American Alligators eat prey that are smaller than them — that’s typically how it goes in the food chain. They eat wading birds, mammals, and fish among other smaller animals. But eating other top predators?

New evidence suggests that American Alligators are contenders for that top role. Published in the Southeastern Naturalist, scientists James C. Nifong and Russell H. Lowers found proof that American Alligators also eat four species of elasmobranchii (sharks and rays). But some sharks eat alligators.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

So, what’s up with this? Turns out it has to do with “size dynamic”. Meaning, that despite being a top predator, the elasmobranchii are smaller than the alligator that’s eating it and vice versa.

How did the researchers come to this conclusion? Over a 10 year period, the researchers caught and pumped the stomachs of over 500 alligators. They found that of the four species of elasmobranchii, three were shark species and one a ray species.

Some were up to 4 feet in length.

*Gulp*

Opportunity Strikes

You might be thinking, But sharks are salt water inhabitants and alligators live in freshwater habitats. Well, according to The Guardian, alligators are willing to take the risk of swimming in saltwater in order to get a meal. In fact, if it rains hard enough, alligators can drink the fresh rainwater off the top of the surface of saltwater.

The research is important because it will help to understand individual species numbers when it comes to determining species that need Endangered Species Act protection.

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