Hailing from the order Crocodilia (lit. ‘But I’m not a crocodile.’), the family Alligatoridae (lit. ‘You’re getting closer.’) and the genus Alligator (lit. ‘Was that so hard?’) the alligator is an evolutionary anachronism. It has remained, in style and substance, relatively unchanged for millions and millions of years. Basically, the alligator is the ineffective, old-but-nobody-knows-just-how-old, mid-level executive in nature’s corporate office. A living fossil, it pretty much just sits around, draws a huge paycheck and does very little other than go to lunch.
‘Hey Zack, how about that new dame at reception? By the way, you hear anything about layoffs?’
Trapped in a world he no longer understands and surrounded by young, hipster mammals sporting untrimmed beards, canvas military caps, bluetooth headsets and those new-fangled placentas, the alligator appears at work each day in the same old armored suit with the mustard stain on the sleeve that he’s been wearing for about 230 million years. He refuses to evolve, insists on hard copies of everything, and will surely never retire.
There are two extant species of alligators: the Chinese alligator and the American alligator. Regardless of which version is present in the meeting, the alligator will always make reference to Cretacious pop culture that everyone kind of remembers their grandparents talking about, but nobody really understands without googling it. Alligators will frequently quote silent movies. Generally, everyone nods in feigned amusement and then they all make fun of the alligator at lunch.
Much of this is deserved. While other animals take pride in evolving new and exciting ways to kill each other, the alligator resorts to the same old trick that used to be cool in the age of the dinosaurs but lacks relevance in the modern world. Breathing through terribly outdated, upwards-facing nostrils, alligators will hide underwater in their corner offices and wait for something to happen by. Perhaps the new flamingo in accounting. When the prey gets close enough, the alligator will lunge out of the water and snatch the unsuspecting animal with jaws that are powerful enough to smash through the shell of a turtle. That’s so not PC anymore.
‘Brittney, be a dear and help me put some toner in the fax machine.’
Anyway, small animals are swallowed whole. Larger animals are either drowned or subjected to the alligator’s ‘death roll,’ a move that was popularized in New York City night clubs during the Cenozoic era. In a death roll, the alligator uses its huge tail for leverage and spins its entire body along the ground while still grasping the prey in its jaws. Anything that doesn’t spin along with the alligator is subjected to enormous torque that bones and flesh simply cannot withstand. Thus, large pieces of anatomy tend to become separated or badly damaged during the death roll. Sure, it works. But the same can be said of the alligator’s rotary phone.
Once immobilized, the prey is dragged into the water where it’s either devoured, or asked to help the alligator open a .pdf email attachment.
‘After this maybe you can show me how to get on to the facebook?’
Even when it comes to reproduction, the alligator is frozen in time. Female American alligators (found from North Carolina to Texas) lay 35-50 eggs of all things. Then, rather than determining the sex of their offspring via X and Y chromosomes like most normal people, alligators rely on temperature. That is to say, they deposit their eggs and let the temperature of the nest do the work. If it’s hot – above 93 degrees Fahrenheit – the offspring will be male. If it’s below 86 degrees, the offspring will be female. And if it’s between 86 and 93, there’s no telling what will happen. In any event, the alligator hands out cigars. Unironically.
American alligator hatchlings are about 8 inches long. Males can grow to up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 1,000 pounds. At this length they can expect to be downsized at any moment and replaced by an eager, highly-motivated mammal who will do a better job for a quarter of the pay. And also feed on nuts and berries as opposed to all of its coworkers.