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Can Crocodiles and Alligators Mate? (Hybrid Species?)

Alligators and crocodiles cannot mate. They belong to different species and genus. The crocodile genus is crocodylus, and the alligator is alligator.

Saltwater Crocodile
Crocs and Alligators are completely different species, thus they can not mate and produce viable offspring

Animals can interbreed if they belong to the same genus. As such, a crocodile species can breed with other crocodile species. However, the offspring is highly likely to be sterile. 

What is a Hybrid Crocodile?

There is no such thing as a hybrid alligator and crocodile. The hybrid crocodiles that people see in the news are those of different crocodile species. For example, the Cuban crocodile can hybridize with the American crocodile. 

This hybrid between Cuban and American crocs are on the rise, according to National Geographic. It is a crisis in Cuba that scientists are trying to fix now. 

American and Cuban crocodiles in the wild are giving offspring to hybrids. If this continues, it is a threat to the survival of the Cuban crocodile species. As of now, the population of the Cuban crocodile has dwindled to only 4,000.  

These rare crocodiles live in two locations only, mostly found in the coastal waters around the Gulf of Mexico. They are critically endangered, and if they mate with American crocodiles, they may go extinct. 

Read More: Can Crocodiles Live In The Ocean?

Why is this? When two species mix, the genes mix, and it can cause the extinction of one species. In this case, it is the Cuban crocodile at risk because they do not number by the millions. 

There is no study yet if the hybrids are stronger than their parents. Scientists also do now know if they are more aggressive. Aggression is a trait that animals could carry if different species interbreed. 

Cuban Crocodile
Inter-species hybrids are not possible, but intra-species hybrids are possible.

Can Alligators and Caimans Mate?

Alligators and Caimans are too genetically different to be able to produce viable offspring. Both the alligator and caiman belong to the same family, Alligatoridae. However, the genus of the caiman is caiman, from the sub-family caimaninae.

The caiman is in the same lineage as the alligator. The other lineage is the common alligator. Caimans are smaller than alligators. On average, they only weigh 40 kilograms. The black caiman is the heaviest at 1,100 pounds. It can grow up to 13 feet. 

Caimans are closely related to alligators. Although they are both reptiles, they have many genetic and physical differences. For example, the caiman does not have a bony septum between the nostrils. They also have longer and sharper teeth than the alligators. 

A Caiman Head
Caiman are too genetically different from alligators to breed sucessfully

Why Can’t Different Crocodillian Species Breed?

Definitionally, two separate species can not breed or produce successful offspring. While some hybrid species are possible (like a mule from a horse and a donkey), these hybrids can not go on to breed themselves.

Many animals who come from the same family cannot interbreed because of the difference in chromosomes. For example, the horse has 64 chromosomes. The donkey has 62. 

Apart from chromosomes, the genetic make-up of an animal also has something to do with the issue of mating. If the DNA they carry do not match, they cannot produce an offspring. 

For crocodilians, there is too much genetic variation between crocodiles, alligators, and caiman for any of the three to create a successful offpsirng.

In addition, there are differences in habitat and diet that would make it difficult for any theoretical offspring to survive.

Although inter-species hybrids are not possible, intra-species hybrids are sometimes possible between closely related species of the same family. For example, cuban crocodiles and american crocodiles are closely related and are able to produce a viable hybrid species.

Summary: Can Crocodiles and Alligators Mate?

Alligators and crocodiles cannot interbreed. They are too genetically far apart to do this. Alligators and caimans also cannot interbreed. Even if they belong to the same family, the Alligatoridae, they do not have the same sub-family and genus.

Crocodiles can interbreed with other crocodiles. It is happening in Cuba now, where the American crocodile has been breeding with the Cuban crocodile. If this happens, scientists get worried because it can result in one species going extinct.

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