Do Alligators Mate for Life?

Surprisingly, most alligators are monogamous. A study showed that as much as 70% of female alligators stay with one partner only.

This study took ten years to complete. First, scientists made careful observations of the alligators in the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and foundout that female gators choose the same male gators for many mating seasons.

Do Alligators Mate for Life

Do alligators have partners?

Yes, they do, but they do not live together like other animals. What happens is that they mate again if both alligators are still alive.

The researchers said that it was incredible. They did not expect the gators to mate again. At the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge (RWR), they found out that a pair of gators that mated in 1997 mated again in 2005.

At first, the scientists thought that monogamy only happens if there are few gators in the same habitat. The situation in RWR changed this perception. There were many alligators in the refuge, and it is why it was so surprising to find out that alligators do have mate fidelity.

What the scientists did to prove mate fidelity was to track the DNA of many offspring. They found out that out of 10 females, there were seven that returned to the same partner.

They also found out that one female mated with the same partner in 1997, 2002, and 2005. Given that gators mate either every year or every couple of years, the conclusion was that mate fidelity with gators is not 100%. 

Do alligators have one mate?

No, not all alligators are monogamous. About 70% of alligators mate with the same mate year after year.

It means that a vast majority of the population do mate with only one partner. However, it is not set in stone. Alligators are reptiles, and it is not unusual for reptiles to be polygamous.

Reptiles often mate with several partners. As such, a reptile can lay eggs at the same time, but these eggs belong to different fathers.

It is not unusual to find one nest where the eggs belong to different fathers. More than 50% of nests have eggs that have various paternity origins. 

Can alligators love forever?

No, alligators cannot love forever because they do not feel love. Alligators have no emotions. Alligator brains are small—about the size of three pieces of olives.

Since alligators have small brains, the brain is not capable of higher function. It cannot think, and it cannot have the consciousness to a similar degree to humans.

If alligators cannot love, how come they choose the same partner over and over again? No one knows the answer.

The presumption is that if the mating was successful in the past, it is likely that the pair will do it again. It is all because of the survival of the species.

Can an alligator mate with a crocodile?

No, alligators cannot mate with a crocodile. Even if they look similar, they belong to different species. Furthermore, they do not belong to the same family.

The crocodile’s taxonomy is as follows:

Class: Reptilia

Order: Crocodilia

Family: Crocodylidae

The alligator, on the other hand, has this:

Class: Reptilia

Order: Crocodilia

Family: Alligatoridae

Since the two reptiles belong to different families, they cannot breed. Below the family level is the genus. If two animals have the same genus, they can breed successfully.

For example, donkeys and horses have the same genus, equus. Because of that, they can interbreed and produce a mule. A lion and a tiger can also interbreed.

A lion’s taxonomy is pantheraleo, while a tiger is pantheratigris. When these two animals breed, they produce a liger or a tigon.

This interbreeding cannot happen between alligators and crocodiles—their chromosomes and genes do not match.

Despite not being able to breed, alligators and crocodiles can live together. Right now, there is only one place in the world where crocs and gators live in the same place. It is the Florida Everglades.

How do alligators mate?

Alligators are sexual animals. Female gators need to mate with males to successfully produce eggs. Alligator mating takes place in the water.

Alligators, like many reptiles, are oviparous. What it means is that they lay eggs, and these eggs must be fertilized to make a baby gator. The eggs are also fertilized inside the body of the mother, not outside.

After mating, the mother alligator will dig a nest and then lay eggs for about an hour. The average clutch size is about 30 eggs. Then, the mother will cover the eggs with either soil or vegetation.

Before the mating begins, the alligators must choose a partner. Every spring, the make alligators put up a spectacular display to prove their worth to the females.

To attract females, the male gator sinks, so its back is just below the water’s surface. Then, it makes low-frequency sounds. This action shows that the water on the male gator’s back looks like it is dancing—the water, not the gator.

Soon, other males will come along and do the same thing. The females will then choose who wins. Male alligators also bellow, and this sound tells the others how big it is. Apparently, bigger gators can scare off smaller ones.

The rippling or dancing of the water comes from the low-frequency sound that the gator makes. The frequency is so low that humans cannot hear it. As the gator bellows, its body vibrates. It is the sound and the body vibration that causes the water to dance.

Summary

Alligators have a tendency to be monogamous. Yes, some of them breed with the same partner over and over again. However, it is too early to conclude whether the same pair will breed for life.

Alligators live long—some can live up to 70 years. To determine if they really breed with the same partner for life, scientists must follow the gators until they die.

Skip to content