Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Hatchling vs the egg – which is a better predictor of growth?

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Eme, California State University – San Marcos

American alligators can grow rather large. In fact, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Spanish explorers called these animals “big lizard”, or “el legarto” in Spanish, which explains how they got their name. Hatchlings are typically 8-9 inches long and their growth rate can vary depending on habitat, age, and sex. Female adult alligators can reach about 9 feet in length and 200 pounds in weight whereas males can reach 13 feet and weigh more than 500 pounds. Alligators are quite common in Florida and Louisiana with over 1 million animals in each state.

Anay Ochoa, undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Dr. John Eme at California State University – San Marcos, gave an interesting poster presentation at the 2021 Experimental Biology Conference examining whether egg mass or hatchling mass were related to the growth of female American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) during the first three years after hatching. Interestingly, alligators are not reproductively mature until they are rather big (about 6 feet long) and larger females usually have larger eggs. While smaller eggs were understandably associated with smaller hatchlings in terms of body mass and length, hatchling body mass was a better predictor of growth of juvenile alligators. Armed with this information, researchers may be able to predict how fossilized eggs and small archosaurs might have developed.  

Sources:

American Alligator | Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Categories: Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Livestock

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