Airdate: Aug 11, 2017
Scientist: Mark Barrow
They've played an important role, ecologically, economically and historically.
Alligators Pivotal Roles
Ambience: Baby Alligators
The sound of baby alligators a far cry from the voracious predators we like to imagine these critters as. But alligators have played important roles ecologically, economically and historically. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Barrow: They were once an endangered species and have made a remarkable comeback as a result of this intensive management that they've been given.
Historian Mark Barrow.
Barrow: They were one of the species that led to the Endangered Species Acts of 1966 and 1969. In fact, if you go back and look at the legislative debates that went on, concern about the decline of the alligator is one of the things that comes up repeatedly. So, it's not only this fierce predator that people are concerned about,a symbol of the landscape and a commodity, but also a creature that helped us to create a legislative framework for protecting a lot of other creatures.
Alligators play an important role in terms of maintaining the populations of other predators. They're digging out of mudholes, create pools of water for other species. They play all kinds of essential roles in an ecosystem.
Alligators are no longer an endangered species, and until recently pretty much all they to worry about was us!
Barrow: Very little preys on the alligator except for humans, once its become an adult. Small alligators are actually eaten by some birds and other things. One exception is a creature that's starting to become pervasive in the Everglades, the Burmese python, which is an introduced species that was a pet. And apparently there have been a number of encounters of large adult Burmese pythons and large alligators in which the alligators come out on the short end of the stick.
They typically avoid humans, but as with any wild animal, common sense should prevail.
Barrow: Avoid feeding alligators, so they don't become acclimated to humans. If you see an alligator, just give it some distance.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.