Orange alligator: Evolution or dye job?

Orange alligator: An orange alligator was spotted in Venice, Fla., Wednesday. Experts say the color is not genetic.

Sylvia Mythen/AP
This photo taken Wednesday by Sylvia Mythen shows an orange alligator in Venice, Fla. Wildlife officials said Thursday the gator is not naturally orange.

A one-of-a-kind orange alligator was spotted in Venice, Florida, Wednesday, prompting some to speculate that after remaining unchanged for 200 million years, the large reptiles are now taking a new evolutionary direction.

But probably not. After examining a photo of the vibrant crocodilian taken by resident Sylvia Mythen, wildlife experts reported its color probably isn't genetic.

WWSB-TV reporter Fallon Silcox quotes Florida Fish and Wildlife official Gary Morse: "The official opinion from our alligator experts is that this is alligator is not naturally orange. We believe it's orange from paint, stain, iron oxide or some other element in the environment that has left a coating on the animal, making it appear orange."

"Iron oxide" is a fancy scientist term for "rust." The experts did not speculate whether the gator simply ate too many navel oranges – not normally a part of the animal's diet – or that it overdid it on the bronzing lotion.

Another possibility is that it is an elaborate publicity stunt by the University of Florida Gators, whose colors are blue and you-know-what.

In any case, the creature almost certainly needs protection, as its lack of natural camouflage could tempt hunters in search of a pair of very tacky shoes.

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