All species of alligators lay eggs. When alligators lay eggs, they build a nest made of vegetation. Crocodiles, on the other hand, merely dig the soil. Alligators use the decomposing vegetation to incubate their eggs.
The sex of the alligator has something to do with the temperature of the nest. Within seven to 21 days of incubation, the sex of the baby alligator is already determined.
When Do Alligators Lay Eggs?
The alligator mating season happens between May and June, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. As early as April, more than one million alligators in the state begin the courtship process.
After the mating season, the females build a nest and lay somewhere between 32 and 46 eggs. Some alligators can lay as many as 50 eggs in a clutch.
Alligators rub and press on each other’s snout or back during courtship. This behavior shows strength. The strong males will win over the females.
The males sink under the water, just below the surface, and they make low-frequency sounds known as bellowing.
In the mating season, alligators are more active. As such, they are likely to have run-ins with humans. Although alligator attacks are uncommon, people must pay special attention to them during the mating season.
During this period and the incubation period, alligators can become aggressive because they are protecting their eggs.
Read Also: Are Alligators Dinosaurs
How Long Do Alligator Eggs Incubate?
Alligator eggs incubate for about 63 to 68 days. The eggs are likely to hatch in mid-August. Some will hatch in early September.
If the incubation temperature is below or at 30 °C or 86 °F, the eggs will produce females. If the incubation temperature is hotter, the clutch will comprise males. If the nest is made of leaves, the nest tends to be hotter.
As such, it is not unusual for gators to become females if the mother laid eggs in wet areas, like marshlands. The typical ratio of male to female in a clutch is 1:5—one male is hatched for every five females.
Alligators, like snakes, have egg teeth. They use this tooth to break open the eggshell when they are ready to get out. Those that fail to do this may suffocate and die.
Once the baby gators are out, the mother alligator will protect them until they are about a year old. Baby gators have a low survival rate. They are often preyed upon by other animals. Even adult alligators will eat them.
Alligator eggs are also susceptible to drowning, as some get crushed by the mother. There are also animals in the wild that prey on alligator eggs. Raccoons are the primary predators of gator eggs. There are reports that hogs, bears, and otters also eat gator eggs.
Related Article: Do Alligators Hibernate?
What do Alligator Eggs Look Like?
Alligator eggs are white and hard-shelled. They are slightly larger than a chicken’s egg but more oval shaped.
The outer layer of a gator’s egg is hard. However, the inner layer is soft. As such, it kind of feels like a snake’s egg. The inner layer is soft like leather, and this prevents the egg from cracking. Instead, the eggs get squished.
As the embryo gets bigger, the outer layer of the egg gets thinner. By the time the gator finally hatches, the egg has become softer, and the hard layer is almost gone. This process is necessary so the baby gator can crack the shell open.
There are many people in wildlife and conservation parks collecting alligator eggs. They incubate the eggs artificially. They do this to protect the eggs from predators.
When gathering eggs, they are careful in handling them. If the egg gets turned, the embryo inside can drown in the liquid in the egg. The eggs need to stay the same way.
They also get the nesting material, as these things carry the bacteria that is necessary to incubate and hatch the eggs.
Do Alligators Lay Their Eggs in Water?
Alligators lay eggs on land; they do not lay eggs in water. They look for a safe spot, particularly in muddy areas with vegetation. Some alligators will build nests up to three feet tall—they are high because of the vegetation. Some nests are as big as six feet in diameter.
Alligator eggs are similar to other reptiles, including lizards and turtles.
Read More: Why Are Alligators Not Considered Lizards?
What Happens After Hatching?
The first years of the alligator are spent swimming and eating small animals. They stay near their mother—those who do not will eventually die. Small alligators feed on insects and worms.
As these gators reach a big enough size, they will start eating frogs. Some will eat rats if available. Alligators are opportunistic feeders, and they are carnivores. As such, they will eat any animal that does not require a lot of effort.
Few alligators that hatched from the clutch will survive. After hatching, these alligators are small. People who operate gator farms say that only two to three gators will survive from a clutch of 35.
Some alligators will stay with their mother for up to three years. Once they reach this age, they are now ready to venture on their own.
By this time, they would be four feet in length. Once they hit this size, they are practically invulnerable, except adult gators who want to cannibalize them. It sometimes happens, especially if there is a shortage of food.
Although alligators can grow to an incredible length, they are not immortal and they do not grow indefinitely, reaching their maximum size at around age 25-35.
Summary: Do Alligators Lay Eggs
Alligators lay eggs, and they build nests for these eggs. They lay eggs in muddy areas with rich vegetation. They use the vegetation to manage the temperature of the nest, which will help in the incubation process.
The gator’s sex relies on the temperature of the nest—high temperature produces males, and low temperatures produce females. After hatching, the baby gators stay with their mother for up to three years before they venture alone.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.