Washington, October 08 (ANI): A decade long study on alligators has finally led to the conclusion that the they are as loyal to their mating partners as birds.
Scientists from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory claim that up to 70 percent of females chose to remain with their partner for maximum time.
The researchers observed the mating system of alligators present at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
After the team, led by Drs. Travis Glenn, Ruth Elsey, Tracey Tuberville and Stacey Lance, had re-trapped a female they recognized the potential to examine individual behaviour over multiple mating seasons and determine if mate fidelity or pair bonding occurs.
Lance said: "Given how incredibly open and dense the alligator population is at RWR we didn't expect to find fidelity.
"To actually find that 70 percent 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."
This find provides a new insight into the complex mating system of the alligator.
Crocodilians do not lack parental care unlike most reptiles. They display parental care though nurturing young and defending the nest.
In 2001 multiple paternity was discovered as the alligator mating system, yet it remains unknown as to how this benefits the species
Though the mate encounter rate is high at RWR as females wander in male territories, yet many alligators choose to mate with the same partner over many mating seasons.
It is also the first evidence for partial mate fidelity in any crocodilian species and reveals a similarity in mating patterns between alligators and bird species.
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 that put crocodilians in a unique phylogenetic position to shed more light into the ancestral mating systems of both birds and many dinosaurs.
Lance added: "In this study, by combining molecular techniques with field studies we were able to figure something out about a species that we never would have known otherwise. Hopefully future studies will also lead to some unexpected and equally fascinating results." (ANI)