It was a clear moonlit night. They had been passionate together before, but when their eyes meet across the crowded swamp their desires were reignited…
Ok, I’ll probably never make it as a Mills & Boon writer, but this scenario isn’t a million miles away from the reality of alligator mating habits. According to a ten year study published in the journal Molecular Ecology, up to 70% of alligators choose to remain with their previous partners for several years, even when females are free to move through crowded male swamps.
The study provides the first evidence for crocodilian male fidelity, a characteristic they share with birds, their evolutionary relatives. Cold blooded crocodilians may not have a reputation for being caring and thoughtful, but in fact they are amongst the few reptilians which nurture and protect their young.
The study, carried out at the swamps in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Rockefeller Wildlife refuge, surprised Stacey Lance, one of the researchers in the study:
“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 this day.”
Because crocodilians like alligators are archosaurs, the study could provide insight into the ancient breeding of dinosaurs who are part of the same family; let’s hope it does because finding out more about dinosaurs is always fun (almost as fun as using the word crocodilian!)
Of course alligators probably can’t feel love, but this research suggests they are surprisingly faithful. If you’re anything like me you’ve seen the episode of Friends where Phoebe describes Rachel as “Ross’ lobster” too many times to count. Maybe “she’s his alligator” would have been more fitting.