The American Alligator – Creation Minute 5

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The Amazing Alligator

The American Alligator is a highly complex animal that is exquisitely designed for survival in swampy waters.

The armor plated alligator has thick scaly structures called scutes covering his body. Scutes (from the Latin Scuta meaning shield) are bony external plates. When a scute has a bony base it is called an osteoderm. The alligator has large osteoderms running down his back. These structures  protect him from many predators, such as fish, while the gator is young and still low on the food chain.

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The alligator is also perfectly camouflaged to its murky surroundings. Juveniles have high contrast markings to blend in to the reedy and grassy habitat along the water’s edge. These markings fade with age causing adults to appear a uniform black or dark green. This allows these apex predators to appear to be floating logs in the swamp, that is until they lunge with surprising agility and speed to catch their prey.

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The alligator is perfectly suited for his aquatic lifestyle. His eyes, nose and ear slits are all positioned on the top of his head, allowing most of his body to remain submerged while he monitors the water surface and shoreline. When he plunges into the water, his nose and ear slits are designed to close, keeping the water out. And to find his prey underwater, he has built-in goggles: nictitating membranes, clear membranes to cover his eyes. When the Alligator attacks his prey, and drags them underwater to eat, there is a special valve at the back of his throat that allows him to open his mouth and eat his food underwater without water flooding into his throat choking him.

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These are all amazing design features that God gave to the Alligator so that he can survive in the swamp.

While these creatures are certainly dangerous apex predators affected by the sin curse , it is important to remember that they still reflect the genius and handiwork of their Creator and they inspire a natural awe in us.

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Let us praise our Lord for the wonders that He has created for us to enjoy, appreciate, and learn from!

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Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Job 37:14

*Creation Minute Articles based on excerpts from the book, “Inspired Evidence” by Julie Von Velt and Bruce Malone.

Creation Minutes can be heard on Friendship With God Radio Program by Tom Cantor.


3 responses to “The American Alligator – Creation Minute 5

  1. What is the significance of the glowing red eyes when reflecting flashes from cameras. Other than beauty for us to enjoy and distinguish between predators and let’s say, frogs when hunting for food, is there a reason that God would color them that color? Thanks!

    • Those beautiful glowing red eyes in camera flashes can also be seen with a flashlight, and in fact cruising waterways at night with a bright spotlight is how crocodilians are most easily located. An interesting thing to think about is that God has created nocturnal animals with special structures that reflect light back into the eye to allow them to see better at night in low light conditions. Alligator eyeshine may vary from a bright reddish orange to an iridescent pink and occurs in other reddish or orange shades in other species of crocodilians. The reason for the color is debatable since the color is not normally seen unless humans are using an artificial light source. The reflection that you see in a crocs eye is caused by a layer of cells called the tapetum lucidum (Latin for “bright carpet”). God has designed this special structure located beneath the photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) in the retina of the eye for a very specific purpose. Because the structure in crocodilians is in the retina, (instead of within the choroid behind the retina in most other nocturnal animals) their type of tapetum lucidum is called retinal tapetum. This allows the retina of the eye to enhance night vision in the center of their field of view. This retinal tapetum is a type of retroreflector, it reflects light directly back along the light path, nearly matching the original and reflected light, maintaining sharpness and contrast of the image on the retina. The red color may have something to do with the fact that alligators (and probably all crocodilians) can see color unlike many other nocturnal animals. To say that the color is a side effect of their nocturnal vision may be accurate, but God may have had other purposes for this, such as allowing man to see them easily at night with a light source. Thank you for such a great question!

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