Alternate Title

Food Habits of Juvenile American Alligators in the Upper Lake Pontchartrain Estuary


Food habits of juvenile (0.49-1.21 m total length) American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from an area in southeastern Louisiana were investigated. One-hundred and one stomach samples were obtained by stomach-pumping. Crustaceans (crayfish; blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus; grass shrimp, Palaemonetes sp.), insects (hemipterans, coleopterans), and small fish (least killifish, Heterandria formosa; mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis) constituted the majority of prey items taken. Fish consumption was significantly more frequent during April and May than during June through September (P<0.025). This differential use of prey species may be due to seasonally fluctuating water levels in the study area. Comparisons of juvenile alligator food habits revealed dietary differences between Louisiana and Florida (P<0.001), possibly due to the different prey available at the two areas. Prey utilization was not significantly different between larger alligators (0.9-1.2 m total length) and smaller alligators (0.3·0.9 m total length) (P>0.25).