28
Feb

Alligators Lay Eggs, More Interesting Facts

Adult gators can grow up to around five meters for males, and three meters for females. And like their Jurassic ancestors, these giant reptiles started out as eggs. A female alligator can lay up to 50 eggs in one mating season, incubating them in the nest for about 63 to 68 days.

Gator eggs start out as hard-shelled eggs, much like a chicken egg but a bit bigger. The egg is composed of two layers, a hard outer layer and a leathery inner layer. The hard layer becomes thinner as the baby alligator grows inside the egg. Before the egg hatches, the hard layer is practically gone. What’s left is the soft, leathery layer, which the baby alligator breaks with the use of what they call the “egg tooth,” a small spike on the tip of their nose. The spike disappears a few weeks after the alligators have hatched.

Interesting Facts About Alligator Eggs

In the wild, mama gators are the ones nesting their eggs. In conservation and wildlife parks, there are trained people collecting alligator eggs and they incubate them artificially. They are careful not to turn the eggs, because one slight mistake in handling the eggs can cause the baby gator inside to drown in its own liquid. The survival rate of gator eggs is much higher in the parks since they are not threatened by predators.

Alligator Mating Season

The whole process, from courtship to egg hatching, happens from mid-spring to early autumn. This is the only season where adult alligators socialize with their kind for the purpose of propagating. Adult gators are highly territorial species. They want their own personal space and will do everything to keep others away from their territory.

Courtship

Adult gators start courtship around April. They press and rub each other’s back or snout to show their strength and make their intentions known. If the male alligator proves his strength over the female by scaring off other gators, she will let him be her mate. They also make bellowing sounds, sending vibrations to the water to catch a female gator’s attention.

Mating 

Both male and female alligators can have multiple mates in one mating season. The actual mating happens from May to June. Humans should avoid any close encounters with gators in the wild during this season because this is when the alligators are most active. They are in heat, and it makes their metabolism faster, needing to feed more often.

Nesting

After mating, the female gators build up their nests from sticks, mud, leaves, grass and other things they can get around the area. Alligator nests are big, about three feet high and six to 10 feet wide. Their nests are mostly found in the swamp areas, in the same spot every nesting season, at least 70% of the time.

Alligators lay eggs from late June to early July, with the eggs finally hatching before or by the start of autumn, around August to September. Not all eggs hatch, though, because some baby gators get drowned inside the egg if they are unable to crack it with their “egg tooth” in time. Other eggs get squashed by their moms, or become food for other animals.

Incubation Period

Did you know that you can already tell the sex of the alligator at the first seven to 21 days of incubation? The temperature to which the alligator eggs are incubated will dictate whether the alligator will be a male or a female. Incubation temperature below 30°C will produce female alligators, while a hotter incubation temperature of 33°C will produce male alligators. Any temperature between 30°C and 33°C will create both female and male alligators.

In conservation parks, they can easily control the incubation temperature, unlike in the wild. What happens in the wild is that when female alligators lay their eggs in wet areas, majority of the eggs will hatch as females. When they lay their eggs on land with nests made of leaves, eggs are hatched as male alligators.

Alligator Moms

Alligator moms are protective of their young, taking care of them until they reach their first year. They are the scariest during nesting and after their eggs have hatched because both eggs and the baby gators serve prey to other animals, raccoons being the most notorious of all. Baby alligators and eggs are even in danger of being preyed on by other adult gators.

The mom knows her eggs are about to hatch when she hears the baby gators make high-pitched noises from inside the eggs. She either brings her eggs near the water for the baby gators to hatch there or bring the entire nest with her. She even carries them on her back while she swims. Baby gators are born carnivores and their diet mainly consists of insects, tadpoles, fishes and other small animals.

Alligator moms become attached to their gator kids up until their juvenile years. Juveniles still have this habit of calling out to their moms when they feel threatened, and the moms still feel the need to protect them.

Alligator Pod

Alligator pod is a group of juvenile alligators, those a year old to about four years. An alligator pod can consist of juveniles from different parents. Staying together is the juveniles’ defense strategy for protection against predators until they are fully grown and can be on their own.

They start to leave their pods when they reach a body length of around four feet. This size is decent enough for them to defend themselves, though they are still no match to bigger gators. They are considered adults and ready for mating when their bodies grow to at least six feet.

Survival Rate of Alligators

In the wild, only two to three will reach adulthood from a clutch of about 50 eggs. Adult alligators eventually stop growing and reach their maximum length when they are about 25 to 35 years old. Their average life span is up to 50 years, with 70 years as the oldest alligator recorded.

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