Study shows alligators adding sharks, stingrays to diet

Posted at 12:25 PM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 15:25:33-04

Alligators are now sinking their teeth into an unlikely food source, according to a new study in the science journal Southeastern Naturalist.

Researchers learned alligators that inhabit the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. have added sharks and stingrays to their diet.

James Nifong, with Kansas State University's Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, told the school's news publication K-State Today, "In the article, we documented alligators consuming three new species of sharks and one species of stingray. Before this, there have only been a few observations from an island off the Georgia coast, but the new findings document the occurrence of these interactions from the Atlantic coast of Georgia around the Florida peninsula to the Gulf Coast and Florida panhandle."

According to Nifong, it is not unusual for alligators to be found in the same waters as sharks and stingrays, despite the freshwater and saltwater differences.

He told K-State Today that sharks may be targeted as a food source because alligators are "opportunistic predators."

Nifong said, "If a small shark swims by an alligator and the alligator feels like it can take the shark down, it will, but we also reviewed some old stories about larger sharks eating smaller alligators."

Nifong worked with wildlife biologist Russell Lowers, with the Integrated Mission Support Services at the Kennedy Space Center, on the published study, K-State Today reported.