American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) inhabit the southeastern United States. Once a federally listed endangered species, American alligators have recovered and are common in many areas of the Southeast. The species is still federally listed as threatened because it looks like the American crocodile, which is endangered.
Alligators are long-lived animals whose life spans can exceed 60 years. Alligators are “cold-blooded,” meaning that they are ectothermic animals that cannot regulate their own body temperature, but assume the temperatures of their surrounding environment. To warm themselves, alligators bask in the sun, which is when they are frequently observed on the banks of water bodies. On hot summer days they can sometimes be seen basking with their mouths open. This is a cooling mechanism essentially equivalent to a dog panting. Ecologically, alligators are important predators and create important habitat for other wildlife by digging holes that hold water during droughts.