Thursday, October 08, 2009

Loyal Alligators Display the Mating Habits of Birds

Multiyear multiple paternity and mate fidelity in the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. 2009. S.L. Lance, et al. Molecular Ecology Published Online 5 Oct 2009.

Discovery may lead to understanding of dinosaur mating habits
Alligators display the same loyalty to their mating partners as birds. The ten-year-study by scientists from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory reveals that up to 70% of females chose to remain with their partner, often for many years.

While the females move freely through male territories, leading to high mate encounter rates, this study reveals that many alligators choose to mate with the same partner over many mating seasons. This amounts to the first evidence for partial mate fidelity in any crocodilian species and reveals a similarity in mating patterns between alligators and bird species.

"Given how incredibly open and dense the alligator population is at RWR we didn't expect to find fidelity," said Lance. "To actually find that 70% of our re-trapped females showed mate fidelity was really incredible. 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 to this day."

Crocodilians are the sole surviving reptilian archosaurs, a group of ancient reptiles that includes dinosaurs and gave rise to birds. It is this evolutionary relationship to birds which means crocodilians are in a unique phylogenetic position to provide information about the ancestral mating systems of both birds and many dinosaurs. link