Marc Pletcher

The maternal behavior of alligators

Alligators are an incredibly ferocious species. Their large frame and powerful jaws mean they have little to no natural predators when they are fully grown. When they are young it is a very different story. The eggs and young hatchlings are seen as a delicious treat by some animals and mother alligators have to work hard to protect their young.

Before laying eggs a mother alligator will build a nest on land. Here she will lay 30 to 50 eggs at a time. Raccoons are one of the most notorious nest predators and as a mother alligator takes a break in the water, animals like raccoons will often strike at the nest. 

Once they hatch, mothers will open their powerful jaw and take the hatchlings carefully inside their mouths. From here they will transport the babies to the water for further protection. Even before the baby alligators hatch they already have some vocal ability. This is used to ensure that when they are about to hatch the mother is close to the nest and to ensure everyone synchronizes their hatching plan. 

From here the alligators will form small groups and stay as close to the mother alligator as possible. Until they grow large enough, they are still seen as prey. Alligators will look after their young for up to one year. After this time they have to leave them to look after themselves as it is time for the mother alligator to start the process all over again with a new batch of young.

The amazing maternal behavior of the ferocious alligator is an outstanding testament to the power of nature. To think that they have the cognitive recognition to have such a strong bond with their young is a beautiful reminder of the importance of family in our lives.