Everglades alligators are smaller because they feed only on crabs, small fish and birds.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – The expression “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your” takes a whole new meaning in Florida. The researchers have found that there is quite an unusual relationship growing between two very different animals. It seems that birds make quite a team with alligators in the Everglades and the scientists have found out why.
When you have to feed yourself and the younglings in the nest, you usually tend to find an appropriate place where you’re sure to find your hatchlings when you return. This is exactly what is happening in Florida at the moment.
Birds make quite a team with alligators in the Everglades. The presence of the long, fearful reptiles keeps the raccoons at bay while the avian members of the unusual inter-species duo discard some of their unwanted hatchlings into the water.
While the alligators do have more to win from this fruitful, unspoken bond, the birds are in a good position, too.
Nest-raiders are an immense problem among the bird population, a vast majority of them being raccoons. When a winged mother senses the presence of a furry thief it alerts all the other nest inhabitants, and an entire generation is lost in the greedy paws of the trash pandas.
But things run differently in the Everglades. The avian population of the marshes noticed that raccoons tend to avoid the places populated by alligators, so they started to build their nests right above reptile-infested waters.
Of course, the American reptile species is not playing bodyguard for free. Birds have the tendency to drop one or two hatchlings from the nest when food is scarce, or the place is overpopulated. So basically, they just look tough in front of the furry nest-raiders and in return, food falls from the sky.
But there are other advantages of this collaboration. Bird feces and undigested food that usually come with such a large population of winged animals make algae and water plants flourish. This means more food for invertebrates that are preferred by small fish that is on the menu of the long, fearsome reptiles.
It’s a vicious natural circle that somehow is keeping the alligator well nourished. And that is a good thing seeing as the American Everglades alligator is the smallest one on the continent due to scarce food present in the Florida waters.
Researchers found that alligators that live in areas highly populated by birds were bigger and healthier than those who don’t. So the relationship benefits both the participants.
As long as the birds build their nests high enough so that the alligators don’t eat them too.
Birds make quite a team with alligators in the Everglades, proving us that we still have a lot to learn about nature’s mysterious ways.
Image source: www.wikimedia.org