I do believe I have been an ass. HARK! An ass, I say! Yes, a mammalian ass I have been. And why do I say so? What have I done to deserve such a label as “ass”? Listen and I will tell you. Lean in, listen close: I have slighted and ignored my beloved alligators.
Yeah, I just realized I haven’t really said much about alligators this year, with the exception of writing about a dead gator being eaten by flies back in March. Alligators deserve better. They’ve earned better, damn it.
Though their population density isn’t anything close to what I’m used to in central Florida, there are still gators a’plenty at Grand Bay and I see them quite frequently doing their thing — which is usually basking out in the sun, lounging about, getting a tan, and begging for sex. (Reminds me of my undergraduate days at Florida State back in the 1990s.)
Alright, the tan thing is bullshit, but you get the point. It’s sometimes easy to forget that such a seemingly-lazy animal is capable of such enormous and raw power. Alright, that’s bullshit too. It’s impossible to forget how powerful alligators can be. They are thundering explosions of kinetic energy waiting to happen –which, I guess, makes them *potential energy* pre-explosion– and there’s no way a rational person can forget this when they gaze upon those massive bundles of packed muscle. If somebody does actually believe gators are sluggish, slow, weak organisms… well, survival of the fittest, my friend. And game on.
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: the crocodilians (Alligator mississippiensis included) are more closely related to birds than they are to lizards, snakes, and/or turtles. Put that in your 21st-Century-WTF-Pipe and smoke it. Hell, share it on Facebook. Tweet it. Tell the world, Hey, world, crocodilians are more-closely related to birds than they are to lizards, snakes, and turtles. Crazy, right?
Alligators and their crocodilian kin are included in a group of organisms known as the archosaurs. Dinosaurs were archosaurs. So too were the so-called flying- and marine-reptiles (common, childhood-favorite examples being pterodactyls and ichthyosaurs, respectively). Birds evolved directly from the archosaur mega-clade (more specifically from the dinosaurian clade, Theropoda). Yup, crocodilians, birds, marine- and flying-reptiles are all brethren within the Cult of Archosaur. You won’t find lizards, snakes, or turtles attending Archosaurian-membership-only club meetings, though they may often hang out nearby wishing they could play in the big kid playhouse.
Despite their remarkably-long and enduring evolution and presence in the wilds of southeastern North America, it didn’t take too long for the European-Americans to come along and fuck it all up. Our uproariously brilliant and well-balanced southern ancestors damn-near annihilated this species to the brink of extinction in the past few hundred years. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and in 1967 the American alligator was federally protected as an endangered species.
Since that overwhelmingly fascistic/communistic/evil-doing/anti-state’s-rights act of federally protecting the species, the American alligator’s North American populations have recovered remarkably well and today the species serves as a testament that sometimes humans can, in fact, right their wrongs. It also demonstrates that hey, you know what, the federal government can do some good when it tries. (I also like to remember that if tea-partiers had been in control in the 1960s, this species would be long gone; the Constitution, you know, doesn’t explicitly state anything about the value of protecting alligators!)
Anyhow, I do love my gators. I’m not as smitten by the archosaurs as I was when I was younger and had more hair (my heart lies soundly in Club Squamata, with the lizards and snakes, do it please ya), but that doesn’t negate the general kickassery of these remarkably adapted, powerful, and robust bombs of energy.
I simply can’t imagine the “South” without them. Some folks may believe their precious confederate flag is a symbol of the true south, but for me I like to imagine an American alligator eating a Rottweiler wearing a confederate flag bandana as the real, true south. In the real south, the north won, the feds protected, and the species survived. Thank you for playing.
Viva la revolucion de la Alligator mississippiensis!
Now, I’m going to make like a gator, lay around in the sun for a while, and wait for the southern tea-party hate mail. BAM!