3-7-14. American Alligator. La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville, Florida. 2014.
The warm weather of spring has brought the alligators out of the water and up onto the trail to bask. This big bull gator, probably 12 feet long or more, was sunning on the trail as I walked by. I was using my telephoto lens for birds and it was so close that I took this zoom photo of its scales. The scales on the top are bony plates, called "osteoderms" or "scoots". They serve as a protective armor and they also aid in collection and absorption of heat from the sun. Alligators are cold blooded reptiles and cannot self regulate body temperature.