Gators: Water Quality Experts

Reptiles and amphibians have long been used as a bellwether for water quality, sort of a slimy and/or scaly-skinned canary in the coal mine. Salamanders, frogs, turtles, alligators...wait a second, alligators?

From this story in The Sun News:
_Could pesticides in the state's waters increase a woman's chances of contracting endometriosis or a girl's risk for early onset puberty? Do they affect the size of a man's sex organ? A group of local researchers are studying alligators to find out. Gators and other marine life offer a portal into human reproductive development and disease, said Dr. Louis Guillette Jr., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina Guillette, who joined MUSC last month after studying gators in Florida for more than two decades, moved his operation to the Hollings Marine Laboratory on James Island, where his team will conduct experiments to study the links between environmental factors and reproductive development and disease. Guillette said gators and humans are "very similar at the cellular level." "The difference is they're in the water all the time," he said.

__So what happens to gators could offer an early warning for water quality problems that could eventually affect humans, he said. "When we start to see problems in wildlife, we then look at the most vulnerable populations of humans," he said. "Could water quality affect an embryo? A fetus? The elderly?"_

So what does it mean when the gators become abnormally, freakishly large?