Known as living dinosaurs, alligators first appeared on Earth approximately 37 million years ago. Although there are two species of alligator, the American Alligator and the Chinese Alligator, it is the American Alligator, the largest reptile in the United States, that inhabits Louisiana as the state reptile.
Alligators of Louisiana call the coastal wetlands their home. A predator in the wetland ecosystem, alligators assist in population control; however, alligators also support diversity and shelter of other species in the environment. During nest construction, alligators dig burrows with their tails resulting in the creation of peat- a boggy type of soil- which often facilitates plant growth. Furthermore, the burrows become ‘alligator holes’, or wetland depressions, which become a home or breeding area to many species other than alligators during dry periods. Alligators are considered a keystone species in the coastal wetlands environment; without alligators, the diversity and productivity of coastal wetlands would decrease.