The tagging of animals is a very common practice. It helps researchers track growth and migration and sometimes it provides very interesting data that is quite unexpected. That is exactly what happened in an alligator tagging program in the Mississippi River.
According to For The Win a subsection of USA Today, alligators in the Mississippi River Delta region of Louisiana and Mississippi are growing at a rate around five times faster than alligators from other locations.
A hunter killed a gator measuring twelve foot one inch that was tagged back in 2011. At the time of tagging, the gator was only six foot four inches, meaning it almost doubled in size in nine years. Giving it a rate of growth of 8.6 inches per year.
Now compare that with a tagged alligator that was killed in a different zone. This particular gator grew only 24.8 inches in the 13 years since being tagged June 14, 2007. Giving it an annual growth rate of 1.9 inches per year.
This is just one example of how much faster the alligators in the Mississippi River are growing compared to other regions. So what is the explanation given by experts? Asian carp.
“Since the time 2003-2005, this area of the Mississippi Delta has seen a tremendous increase in the Asian carp population,” the MWDFP stated. “The MWDFP Wildlife Bureau has documented alligators feeding on the Asian carp on many occasions.
It seems it is just a simple equation of available food for the alligators and Asian carp are providing that biomass. They have more food available to them than at any other time in history and they are definitely taking advantage of it.