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 Breathing through terribly outdated, upwards-facing nostrils, alligators will hide underwater in their corner offices and wait for something to happen by.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.


14 responses to “Alligator

  1. Oh.My.God.

    I can’t stop laughing! You’re a damn genius! =))

  2. Excellent work as always.

  3. Alligators are really very sensitive under all that armor. They were nearly wiped out by suburban expansion in the south, so the myth goes, but in reality, they were so homesick for the old neighborhood they could barely get focused enough to reproduce. Now that their habitat is getting the protection it so desperately needs, all is well again and you can see large specimens lounging near the water hazards on nearly every golf course in Florida.
    As a case in point, The story about Tiger Woods’ tussle with a tree and fire hydrant was in reality a territorial dispute between Tiger and a local gator. But in order to protect the tender inner child of the alligator, a made-up story about “domestic problems” between Elin and Tiger was agreed to by all parties, and widely circulated.
    I would suggest an upgrade to at least a C, since I live in Florida (for the rationale behind giving a better grade see “King Cobra.”).

  4. Agreed. Genius as always. When I lived on the beach in NC, the lifeguards had to clear the water one day because a gator swam up from the Cape Fear River right into the ocean. It body surfed from deep waters to shore, turned around and did it again. Sometimes during a chase, the police found themselves standing on the shores of the local lake where the suspect had fled into the water. They literally sat back in their cars and waited. Didn’t take long for the guy to race out of the water, a gator hot on his tail, eager to surrender to the cops.

  5. According to a movie I just saw, alligators can play trumpets.

  6. This grade is very unfair. In fact, I call shenanigans. The alligator, much like the shark, has been a rock-steady contributor to the corporate hierarchy of Nature since ad infinitum. Both are exceptionally efficient at what they do: killing stuff. You give the Great White a nice A+ and the Alligator a D? Dubs Tee Eff, Animal Review? One top line predator that hasn’t evolved forever gets a stellar grade and another gets barely passing? For shame.

  7. I’ve got to agree with bll.
    The alligator may not be the CEO, but it’s definitely not middle-management.
    I would say the gator is probably the VP of Regional Sales. Definitely a closer.
    Grade: A.

  8. I want alligator upgraded to at least B-. I used the death roll technique on a dead ornamental tree stump this morning. Came right out of the ground with a tearing snapping wood-subjected-to-enormous-torque kind of sound. Sometimes the tried and true methods really are the best — an iPad would never have worked that puppy loose.


  9. I think this is a classic case of discrimination. The alligator isn’t quite as polished as the great white, he lives in a bad part of town, he hasn’t worked out in a while (he doesn’t have too…) and his hair looks like shit. That’s not really a good reason to give him a D. Seriously, he was raised in the hood, his dad was never around, and when he was around, he was trying to eat his kids. Not to mention he hung out inside of his mom’s mouth (boundary issues hellooo?).

  10. I say the alligator is the cousin of the mummy George that is buried in Pangea, but when the earth separated the mummy was pulled apart therefore forming the long and weird appearance of the alleged alligator. That was one long sentence…..

  11. If an Alligator ever works out txt messaging or MSN chat his friends could farewell him by saying: “C U l8ta Alig8er”

  12. im doing a science project on the cape fear river and i am asking if you can send me pictures and information on the plant and animals in the cape fear river

  13. im doing a science project on the cape fear river and i am asking if you can send me pictures and information on the plant and animals in the cape fear river i need the info. by 3/18/2011

  14. Pingback: My National Parks: Everglades | Carl Sagan's Dance Party

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