E. R. Beal and A. E. Rosenblatt
Dr. Adam Rosenblatt | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Biology
Urbanization is an ever-increasing threat to wildlife and their natural habitats, yet research has been limited to a small number of taxa and very few large predator species. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is an apex predator across the southeast U.S. and has surprisingly received minimal attention within urban areas. To investigate the potential effects of land development on alligator trophic ecology, we performed gut content analysis on golf course alligators found on Jekyll Island, Georgia. We then made comparisons with alligators found in more natural areas on Sapelo Island, Georgia. In total, we collected stomach content samples from 25 alligators on Jekyll Island golf courses, of which only one had an empty stomach. Data provided from Sapelo Island consisted of 93 alligators within our alligator size range, of which only one had an empty stomach. While analysis of similarity, non-metric multidimensional scaling, and simplified Morisita index analyses show no significant difference in diets between the two areas (possibly because of a low sample size from Jekyll Island), %IRI values for prey items reveal that there may be functional differences in prey choice or availability. Further land development and increasing human activity may therefore shift diets toward reliance on prey items usually of lesser importance. These trophic effects could possibly lead to local population declines, if paired with habitat degradation or other stressors.