The American alligator is an apex predator in each of its respective regions of inhabitance (O’Connell et al., 2007). Thermoregulation provides the alligator the ability to maintain order within its ecosystem, as it enables the alligator to maintain its physiological functions at an optimal rate (Smith, 1979). Alligators provide consistency to the food webs in which they are involved but decreased function may inhibit the alligator’s ability to do so. Global warming threatens the alligator’s ability to maintain such physiological functions, and may disrupt the ecosystems in which the American alligator lives (Figure 1.)
Current estimates project global surface temperature increases of 0.22°C per decade in the next century (Rhodes, 2008). Although this increase may seem minimal, such a change is significant in consideration of the alligator’s narrow determined thermal preference range of between 29 and 31°C (Asa et al., 1998). As such, the current rate of climate change is a grave threat to the survival of alligators, and measures must be taken to mitigate the consequences for them and other animals (Smith, 1979).
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