Let’s learn about alligators and crocodiles

aggressive: (n. aggressiveness) Quick to fight or argue, or forceful in making efforts to succeed or win.

Atlantic: One of the world’s five oceans, it is second in size only to the Pacific. It separates Europe and Africa to the east from North and South America to the west.

crocodilians: Large, semi-aquatic reptiles that evolved more than 80 million years ago. Many are long extinct. Their living descendants include alligators, caimans and crocodiles.

diet: The foods and liquids ingested by an animal to provide the nutrition it needs to grow and maintain health. (verb) To adopt a specific food-intake plan for the purpose of controlling body weight.

dinosaur: A term that means terrible lizard. These ancient reptiles lived from about 250 million years ago to roughly 65 million years ago. All descended from egg-laying reptiles known as archosaurs. Their descendants eventually split into two lines. For many decades, they have been distinguished by their hips. The lizard-hipped line are believed to have led to the saurichians, such as two-footed theropods like T. rex and the lumbering four-footed Apatosaurus (once known as brontosaurus). A second line of so-called bird-hipped, or ornithischian dinosaurs, appears to have led to a widely differing group of animals that included the stegosaurs and duckbilled dinosaurs. But a new 2017 analysis now calls into question that characterization of relatedness based on hip shape.

ecosystem: A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra. The term can also be applied to elements that make up some an artificial environment, such as a company, classroom or the internet.

Everglades: Short for Everglades National Park, this site was established in 1947 as a federally protected wetlands area. At almost 2,500 square miles (6,070 square kilometers) in size, it is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Owing to its unique nature, it is also considered a World Heritage Site. Best known for its alligators, this park is almost gaining notoriety as the home for several reproducing species of alien giant snakes, most notably the Burmese python.

fossil: Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils. The process of forming fossils is called fossilization.

freshwater: A noun or adjective that describes bodies of water with very low concentrations of salt. It’s the type of water used for drinking and making up most inland lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, as well as groundwater.

habitat: The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to thousands of different species.

ice age: Earth has experienced at least five major ice ages, which are prolonged periods of unusually cold weather experienced by much of the planet. During that time, which can last hundreds to thousands of years, glaciers and ice sheets expand in size and depth. The most recent ice age peaked 21,500 years ago, but continued until about 13,000 years ago.

insect: A type of arthropod that as an adult will have six segmented legs and three body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen. There are hundreds of thousands of insects, which include bees, beetles, flies and moths.

kin: Family or relatives (sometimes even distant ones).

order: (in biology) It is that place on the tree of life directly above species, genus and family.

sharks: A family of primitive fishes that rely on skeletons formed of cartilage, not bone. Like skates and rays, they belong to a group known as elasmobranchs. Then tend to grow and mature slowly and have few young. Some lay eggs, others give birth to live young.

wetland: As the name implies, this is a low-lying area of land either soaked or covered with water much of the year. It hosts plants and animals adapted to live in, on or near water.

wildebeest: A type of antelope found in Africa. These animals are about 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall, travel in herds, eat grass and are commonly found in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, as well as on the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia.

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