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Alligators Eat Sharks, Stomach-Pumping Scientist Says

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By    |   Wednesday, 18 October 2017 07:34 AM

Alligators will eat sharks given a chance, a stomach-pumping scientist said in a recently published study, and the battle between the two feared predators often comes down to size and opportunity.

James Nifong, who has researched the American alligator population along Florida and Georgia for almost 10 years, told The Washington Post his team has caught more than 500 alligators and pumped their stomachs to learn more about their diets.

Nifong said alligators will sneak out into saltwater environments and feed on marine animals such as sharks and stingrays, per the Post, and he knows because along with stomach pumping, researchers used GPS tracking devices attached to captured alligators to follow their movements.

"While few studies have been performed, data reported thus far from marine-foraging populations indicate individuals chiefly consume small-bodied prey such as crustaceans, fish, and wading birds," said the study abstract in the journal Southeastern Naturalist.

"Nonetheless, capture and consumption of large-bodied marine prey such as multiple species of sea turtles and a single species of Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) have been documented," the abstract said.

"The frequency of one predator eating the other is really about size dynamic," said Nifong, a researcher at Kansas State University. "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."

Nifong told the Post that additional work was needed to find out if alligators were eating sharks in greater numbers and why it was happening, and he said while reports of sharks and alligators fights date back to the late 1800s, he believes their interactions may have increased because of development.

"Both populations have suffered declines, and you've got a lot of coastal development that have decreased their access to estuarine habitats," Nifong told the Post. "Historically, alligators were considered just a freshwater species. We found that not only do they habitually use marine habitats, there are very important linkages between those two systems . . . We need to account for those interactions when we're planning for those conservation efforts."

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Alligators will eat sharks given a chance, a stomach-pumping scientist said in a recently published study, and the battle between the two feared predators often comes down to size and opportunity.
alligators, eat, sharks, stomach-pump, scientist
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2017-34-18
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 07:34 AM
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