Alligators have sensitive jaws

by Dave Hanks

It’s hard to imaging an animal that is so big and covered with armored skin to be sensitive to anything. Yet the skin around the top of the snout and along the jaws is more sensitive than our finger tips. They can detect touch that is too faint for our fingers to feel. Their most sensitive areas are in the gums along their teeth.

Cats of all kinds have sensitive whiskers and elephants very utilitarian trunks; traits that rival the gators sensors and help each species in their struggle for survival. These sensitive areas can allow animals to identify prey, or whatever they come in contact with.

Alligator jaws that can shut with a tremendously powerful force are, otherwise, weak enough that one could hold their mouth shut with one’s hands – a striking contrast between force and gentleness. The touch sensors allow a special gentleness when the female responds to peeping coming from her ripened eggs, which she carefully opens and then carries her new babies in her jaws to safety. Clumsiness would result in a lot of young ones getting accidently chewed up.

Alligators are more adaptable than their crocodile cousins. This has allowed them to spread farther north. They are top of the food chain predators that feed on a wide variety of animals: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and even your dog. They shape habitats where they live by digging “gator holes” which can modify the wetness or dryness of an area. Other organisms benefit from these modifications.

 

gatortp

Resting and warming in the Texas sun

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Rock Pigeons and Adaptability

Rock Pigeons, also known as Rock Doves, are native to southern Europe where they nest in rocky cliffs. They were introduced to the United States, and as a result, were forced to adapt to new habitats. Lack of maximum prime habitat has limited their choices. We see so many in cities, around farm buildings, or under highway overpasses that it’s easy to think that they are where they want to be. Not so, they have made a major adjustment. Tall buildings are evidently the closest match to cliff sides that many can find. What is also interesting is that Peregrine Falcons (also forced to nest on tall buildings) have adapted in the same manner, but make the most of it by preying upon the pigeons.

Pigeons are a very diverse species. There are 12 sub-species, which includes Homing Pigeons. Many escaped domestic birds have added to this diversity and some individuals are totally white. Pigeons fly with their wings in a V configuration, which aids in their identification at a distance.

This species feeds in flocks on the ground. They also drink continually without tilting their head back. Tilting is characteristic of most birds. Pigeons are monogamous and will breed at any time of the year. Two young, called squabs, are produced at each nesting. The squabs feed by placing their beak into the parent’s throat. The food is drunk. It is called “pigeon milk.” It is a predigested, heavy, milky liquid.

We used to have a pigeon problem before we removed the top half of an old barn. Some high school students liked to bring their prom dates to the barn for an “after dance” dinner. To do that, required a major clean-up of pigeon feces before the old barn was presentable.

Rock Dove Showing off iridescent colors

Showing off iridescent colors