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Do Alligators & Crocodiles Die of Old Age? (Myths Busted)

Both alligators and crocodiles die of old age, it’s a myth that they are immortal. While they can grow to epic sizes, their growth also stops, and they die of old age and complications that come with it. 

Crocodile skull skeleton
Crocodiles do not live forever, they eventually die of old age

One expert, Adam Britton, spent years studying the aging process in crocodilians. His conclusion is that both gators and crocs slow down growth, or stop the growth, once they become adults.

Do Crocodiles Age?

Yes, crocodiles age. Some news materials out there say they are immortal, but this is incorrect. Crocodiles age, but they age slowly. This process is called negligible senescence. 

Senescence is the process of aging. It happens to all living things. In this natural law, the cells permanently stop dividing. However, the cells do not die. They get old, and they get weak.

When cells stop dividing, no new healthy and young cells are made. It is why humans and other animals are weaker and weaker as they age.

It also happens to crocodiles, but the process is so slow that it becomes negligible. Sensationalist reporting say that they do not age—that they will only keep on growing, but they die of diseases or predation. Some say they die because of starvation. 

This is not true. A crocodilian expert, Adam Rosenblatt, said that the aging process for crocs is not really understood. Studies show that crocodiles do age. They even die of old age in captivity despite the care that they receive. 

As crocodiles age, they also lose strength as humans do. They also lose their teeth, and some develop cataracts. Old female crocodiles even produce fewer eggs. 

Read More: Can Crocodiles Smell Blood?

West-African Crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
Crocodiles age just other animals, but their aging process is slower

Do Alligators Age?

Alligators do age, but they have a long lifespan which makes it difficult to study their aging process. Alligators can live as long as humans.

There is a man who studied gators for many years. Phil Wilkinson, a biologist, has been studying gators since the 1970s. As such, he has more than 35 years of data.

In 1993, he began studying the animals, and they found out that they stopped growing. Many gators reached their maximum size at the age of between 25 and 35.  

In the study, the team captured and marked gators. They also collected blood, urine, and even skin samples from these alligators.  

It was previously thought that alligators did not age. However, Wilkinson’s research proved otherwise. 

They also found out that middle-aged females are the most fertile. Female alligators continued to reproduce until their growth had stopped.  

Related Article: How Fast Can an Alligator Run on Land?

Are Crocodiles Immortal?

Crocodiles are not immortal. Their cells also get old and stop reproducing just like other animals, however, their aging process is slow compared to humans. 

It is difficult to put a dot on a crocodile’s lifespan. Some of them live more than 100 years. There are humans who grow old –more than 100 years. Same with crocs, they also grow old and die, so they are not immortal.

The big difference is old crocodiles are stronger if compared to humans. A 70-year-old croc has the same power and agility as a 7-year-old one. Again, it all boils down to slow aging. 

There are many types of alligator, but none of them are immortal.

Lolong the Crocodile - Skeleton
Crocodiles are not immortal, although they age slowly they eventually die

Are Alligators Immortal? 

Alligators are not immortal. Like crocodiles, they grow old. Like the crocodile, alligators go through what is called negligible senescence which means they age slowly.

The term negligible senescence does not mean that the animal does not grow old. It still does. Alligators and crocodiles are not the only ones that go through this. There are turtles that can grow more than 100 years old. 

Again, sensationalist media made it sound like they do not get old. That is not what happens to alligators and turtles. Studies show that these animals also suffer a decrease in their physical fitness as they get old.  

What is the Oldest Alligator?

The oldest alligator on record is Muja, an American alligator in captivity in Belgrade Zoo in Serbia who lived to be over 80 years old. Muja was captured in 1937. His hatch day is unknown, but he was already an adult when he was moved to Serbia from Germany. 

According to news reports, he was already two years old in 1937. He survived World War II, even if the zoo was completely destroyed. In 2012, Muja went through surgery—they amputated his leg when he had gangrene. 

During old age, Muja could barely eat. His caretakers had to place food in his jaw. He died in 2018 at the age of 80 years and 252 days.

Muja the Alligator
Muja the Alligator lived to be 80 years old.

What is the Oldest Crocodile?

Henry is the world’s oldest living crocodile. Henry is a Nile crocodile who turned 121 years old in December 2021. He is currently living in South Africa.

Henry was captured in 1985. His age is just an estimate, as no one knows when Henry was hatched. Henry is also huge, weighing 700 kilograms at five meters long. At his age, he has sired over 10,000 crocodiles. 

Why is There a Myth that Crocs and Alligators Don’t Age? 

There is a myth that crocodiles and alligators do not age because older, weaker crocodiles don’t last long in the wild. They die in the wild before they have a chance to reach old age, leading to the persistent myth.

In captivity, many people say that the crocs and gators die of diseases, not of old age. The thing is that this is just a claim, and there is no scientific study to back it up. 

However, Adam Britton has already laid this issue to rest. His study showed that crocodilians stop growing—that they also go through senescence or aging. However, their aging process is so slow that the effects of aging are negligible. 

Summary

Crocodiles and alligators die of old age. They get old, lose their teeth, and also become weak. They just happen to have negligible senescence, a process by which their cells deteriorate so slowly. 

Alligators and crocodiles are not immortal animals. It is also not true that they do not stop growing. They do top growing once they hit a certain age range. In studies, this age range is between 25 and 35. 

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