Alligator Monogamy Surprises Scientists
For years, it was believed that alligators were promiscuous and not all that interested in life or long-term partnerships. Luckily, beliefs and theories can be disproven, and they have been once again.
A study that was conducted in the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana showed that 70% of the female American alligators chose to stay with their partner for long periods of time. The findings of this 10 year study shocked scientists, since the large reptiles live in such populated areas and random female-male encounters are quite common.
“Given how incredibly open and dense the alligator population is at RWR (Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge) we didn’t expect to find fidelity,” said researcher Stacey Lance, who led the study. “To actually find that 70 percent of our re-trapped females showed mate fidelity was really incredible. I don’t think any of us expected that the same pair of alligators that bred together in 1997 would still be breeding together in 2005 and may still be producing nests together to this day.”
Alligators are usually solitary and very territorial animals. Both large male and female gators have been known to take dominant roles over territory they deem as “theirs”, and have no issue in fighting off unwanted invaders. Their most deadly tactic would probably be the “death roll”, in which they will bite and latch onto the limb of an animal, and roll or thrash about wildly until the limb is completely torn off. Mother alligators are also extremely protective of their young, keeping watch on them for up to a year after they hatch.
The Louisiana study was conducted by tracking a group of females and analyzing their offspring’s DNA. Seven out of ten females were discovered to have returned to the same mating partner time after time. Birds also share a similar mating pattern to the alligators, which is really no big surprise, considering they both have the same ancestor group: Archosaurs. Archosaurs were ancient reptiles that included dinosaurs and are where birds are believed to have evolved from.
Other animals that are known to take partners for life include: Wolves, Otters, Beavers, Bats, Foxes, Prairie Voles, Bonnethead Sharks, Red-backed Salamanders, Kirk’s Dik-Dik Antelope, Black Vultures, Condors, Penguins, Bald Eagles, and more. Many of these animals will stay with their partner until one of them dies; some of them may take on a new partner, others will remain widowed. Given the extent of their devotion and fidelity, I think a lot of people could take a lesson from them before diving into a relationship, cheating or getting a divorce. It really puts things into perspective, to say the least.
By Heidi Marshall