A new study revealed that not even the fearsome sharks are safe from being eaten by a bigger or meaner predator. Namely, a team of researchers discovered that sharks that venture into freshwater are at risk of becoming the next meal of an alligator.
American Alligators and Their Unexpected Dietary Choices
Sharks are well known for being the apex predators of any salty waters. In contrast, the Alligator mississippiensis or American alligators are known for waddling through freshwater.
However, a new study found that not only do these two species actually interact but that one of them is also not against eating the other.
James Nifong, a Kansas State University researcher, and Russell Lowers, an IMSS wildlife biologist, are behind this latest research. The two captured and then analyzed the stomach contents of some 500 living alligators.
This revealed the usual dietary choices which include snails, crustaceans, and on occasion, smaller fish. However, the researchers also detected the remains of four different types of sharks, including stingrays and nurse sharks.
The team determined that, on the rare occasion that either American alligators venture into salty waters or sharks set out for freshwater ones, the latter may become prey to the former.
However, the researchers also point out that this doesn’t mean that alligators are always the winning party. Instead, the relations between these two predators was described as being a “reciprocal predation”.
The team hypothesizes that, if both the alligator and the shark are hungry and find themselves in the same environment, size will likely determine the winner.
“The frequency of one predator eating the other is really about size dynamic. 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,” states Nifong.
A paper with the study results is available in the Southern Naturalist.
Image Source: Pixabay