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Senin, 16 Oktober 2017

'Opportunistic' alligators will chow down on SHARKS

Sciencetech | Mail Online
'Opportunistic' alligators will chow down on SHARKS
'Opportunistic' alligators will chow down on SHARKS

They’re both known to be fearsome predators – but in the waters off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the American alligator may have gotten the better of some sharks.

A new study has found alligators in the region consume four different species of shark and a type of stingray, in behaviour now known to be far more widespread than previously believed.

According to the researchers, the gators are opportunistic hunters, and will prey on sharks that swim into their paths if they’re small enough to take down.

A new study has found alligators in the region consume four different species of shark and a type of stingray, in behaviour now known to be far more widespread than previously believed. Pictured, an American alligator eats a nurse shark

A new study has found alligators in the region consume four different species of shark and a type of stingray, in behaviour now known to be far more widespread than previously believed. Pictured, an American alligator eats a nurse shark

A new study has found alligators in the region consume four different species of shark and a type of stingray, in behaviour now known to be far more widespread than previously believed. Pictured, an American alligator eats a nurse shark

WHAT THEY FOUND 

In the study, the team found that the alligators frequent partially enclosed areas known as estuaries, where sharks are known to make their nurseries.

These regions contain a mix of fresh and salt water.

While alligators, unlike true crocodiles, are not equipped with salt glands, they’re able to travel between freshwater and marine habitats, the researchers say.

And, many sharks and rays are able to swim into freshwater.

The gators are opportunistic hunters, and will prey on sharks that swim into their paths if they’re small enough to take down, the researchers say.

‘In the article, we documented alligators consuming four new species of sharks and one species of stingray,’ said James Nifong, postdoctoral researcher with the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research at Kansas State University.

‘Before this, there have only been a few observations from an island off the Georgia coast, but the new findings document the occurrence of these interactions from the Atlantic coast of Georgia around the Florida peninsula to the Gulf Coast and Florida panhandle.’

The team from Kansas State University and Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center pumped the stomachs of more than 500 alligators to see what they are eating.

They also fitted the gators with GPS transmitters to track their movement.

While alligators, unlike true crocodiles, are not equipped with salt glands, they’re able to travel between freshwater and marine habitats, the researchers say. 

And, many sharks and rays are able to swim into freshwater.

‘Alligators seek out fresh water in high-salinity environments,’ Nifong said.

‘When it rains really hard, they can actually sip fresh water off the surface of the salt water. That can prolong the time they can stay in a saltwater environment.’

In the study, the team found that the alligators frequent partially enclosed areas known as estuaries, where sharks are known to make their nurseries.

These regions contain a mix of fresh and salt water.

‘The findings bring into question how important sharks and rays are to the alligator diet as well as the fatality of some of the juvenile sharks when we think about population management of endangered species,’ says Nifong.

The team from Kansas State University and Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center pumped the stomachs of more than 500 alligators to see what they are eating. Stock image

The team from Kansas State University and Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center pumped the stomachs of more than 500 alligators to see what they are eating. Stock image

The team from Kansas State University and Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center pumped the stomachs of more than 500 alligators to see what they are eating. Stock image

According to the team, alligators’ predation on sharks largely boils down to opportunity.

And in the past, the reverse has been observed as well.

Historical accounts from the late 1800s tell of battles between masses of sharks and alligators following major floods, the researchers note.

In one case, the sharks attacked after alligators were drawn out to sea.

‘The frequency of one predator eating the other is really about size dynamic,’ Nifong said.

‘If a small shark swims by an alligator and the alligator feels like it can take the shark down, it will, but we also reviewed some old stories about larger sharks eating smaller alligators.’

'Opportunistic' alligators will chow down on SHARKS Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Abu Fatih Aufa

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