Plate Number: II 63
Lacertus omnium maximus, Crocodilus: The Alligator
The Largeness, Strength, and terrible Appearance of this formidable Animal, occasioning to be to often observed and described, I conceive it less necessary to be so particular in its description as otherwise I should be in so remarkable a Creature: I shall therefore endeavour to observe some Things which have been omitted by others. They are amphibious, and tho' the largest and greatest Numbers inhabit the Torrid Zone, the Continent abounds with them ten Degrees more North, particularly as far as the River Nous in North Carolina, in the Latitude of about 33, beyond which I have never heard of any which Latitude nearly answers to the Northermost Parts of Africa, where they are likewise found. They frequent not only salt Rivers near the Sea, but Streams of fresh Water in the Upper Parts of the Country, and in Lakes of salt and fresh Water, on the Banks of which they lye lurking among Reeds, to suprise Cattle and other Animals.
In Jamaica and many Parts of the Continent they are found above twenty Foot in Length: They cannot be more terrible in their Aspect than they are formidable, and mischievous in their Natures, sparing neither Man nor Beast they can surprize, pulling them under Water, that being dead, they may with greater Facility and without Struggle, or Resistance, devour them. As Quadrupeds do not to often come in their Way, they mostly subsist on Fish, but as Providence, for the Preservation, or to prevent the Extinction, of defenceless Creatures, hath in many Instances restrain'd the devouring Appetites of voracious Animals, by some Impediment or other, so this destructive Monster, by the close Connexion of the Joints of his Vertebra, can neither swim nor run any other Ways than strait forward, and is consequently disabled from turning with that Agility, requisite to catch his Prey by Pursuit, therefore they do it by Surprize in the Water, as well as by Land; for effecting of which Nature seems in some measure to have recompensed their Want of Agility, by giving them a Power of deceiving and catching their Prey, by a Sagacity peculiar to them, as well as by the outer Form and Colour of their Body, which on Land resembles an old dirty Log or Tree, and in the Water frequently lies floating on the Surface, and there has the like Appearance, by which and his silent Artifice, Fish, Fowl, Turtle, and all other Animals are deceived, suddenly catch'd and devoured.
Carnivorous Animals get their Food with more Difficulty and lets Certainty than others, and are often necessitated to fast a long Time, which a slow Concoction enables them to endure: Reptiles particularly, by swallowing what they eat whole, digest slowly, eat seldom, and live long without Food. Wolves are said to gorge themselves with Mud, to supply the Want of better Food; for the like Cause may Alligators swallow Stones and other Substances, to distend and prevent the Contraction of their Intestines when empty, and not to help Digestion, which they seem to be in no Need of. For in the greater Number of many I have opened, nothing has appeared but chumps of Lightwood and Pieces of Pine Tree Coal, some of which weighed eight Pounds, and were reduced and wore to smooth from their first angular roughness, that they seemed to have remained in them many Months. They lay a great Number of Eggs at one Time, in the sandy Banks of Rivers and Lakes, which are hatched by the Heat of the Sun, without further Care of the Parents. The young ones so soon as they are disengaged from their Shells, betake them to the Water and shift for themselves; but while young they serve as a Prey, not only to ravenous Fish, but to their own Species. It is to be admired that so vaft an Animal should at first be contained to an Egg, no bigger than that of a Turkey.
In South Carolina they are very rat numerous, but the Northern Situation of that Country, occasions their being of a smaller Size than those nearer the Line, and they rarely attack Men or Cattle, yet are great Devourers of Hogs. In Carolina they lie torpid from about October to March, in Caverns and Hollows in the Banks of Rivers; and at their coming out in the Spring, make an hideous bellowing Noise. The Hind-part of their Belly and Tail are eat by the Indians. The Flesh is delicately white, but has so perfumed a Taste and Smell, that I could never relish it with Pleasure. The Figure here exhibited, represents the Size and Figure of an Alligator, soon after the breaking out of the Shell.
Candela Americana, foliis Laurinis, flore tetrapetalo luteo, fructu angustiore: The Mangrove Tree
These Trees vary in Height, being in some Places twenty, in others above thirty Feet high, in Proportion to the Depth or Richness of the muddy Soil in which they grow. The Bark is smooth, of a light brown, in the smaller Branches inclining to red: The Leaves are somewhat like those of the Bay, with their middle Veins yellow, having Inch long Foot-stalks: The smaller Branches are jointed at the Distance of every Inch: The Flowers grow usually two or three together, and sometimes on single Footstalks, of two or three Inches in Length, having each four yellow Petals, which before they open are covered with a greenish Calyx, dividing into four Parts; the Flower is suceeded by green succulent Substances, in Form not unlike a Pear, at the small End of which hang a single Seed, about six Inches in Length, in Form of a Bobin, with which Lace is made. These Seeds when they fall, are carried floating on the Water, and lodged on muddy Banks, where their larger Ends settle in the Mud, and take Root, the smaller Ends sprouting, as in the Figure. These Trees propagate not only by their Seeds in this Manner, but the smaller Branches falling into the Mud strike Root, and in a few Years become Trees, which increase in like Manner, and extend their Progress some Miles.
In shallow Salt Water these impenetrable Woods of Mangroves, are frequented by great Numbers of Alligators, which being too big to enter the closest Recesses of these Thickets, the smaller ones find a secure Retreat from the Jaws of their voracious Parents; These watery Woods are also plentifully stored with ravenous Fish, Turtles, and other Animals, which prey continually one upon the other, and the Alligators on them all, so that in no Place have I ever seeen such remarkable Scenes of Devastation as amongst these Mangroves, in Andros, one of the Bahama Islands, where the Fragments of half devoured Carcasses were usually floating on the Water. They grow in most Parts of the Earth under the Torrid Zone, and are found but a little North or South of the Tropicks. The Hortus Malabaricus describes two or three Kinds, Vol. VI. p. 59. 61, 63, 65.