The appearance of an alligator is frightening, to say the least. And if it opens its jaws to reveal all those sharp teeth, then it is danger personified! An alligator has 70 or more sharp teeth. Imagine getting caught in those teeth!
However, when this same alligator has to look after her eggs or hatch-lings, these teeth handle those eggs with utmost care and tender touch. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
A female alligator lays approximately 35 to 40 eggs at a time. Each egg is around three inches long. First she digs a pit in the sand or soil to prepare a nest. She lays her clutch of eggs in this pit and then covers them with mud and leaves. It takes around nine weeks of incubation for the eggs to hatch.
The sun’s heat incubates the eggs. The embryos inside the eggs exhale or give out carbon dioxide. This gas fills the covered nest. Just as the pollution of the atmosphere with this carbon dioxide gas increases the possibility of acid-formation and acid rain, in the same way, a weak acid is formed in the closed space around the eggs. This acid forms a layer over the egg-shells and corrode the shell lining. This results in slow thinning of the shells.
When the incubation is complete, the hatchlings break the shell and poke out their snouts. Some of the hatchlings cannot manage to break the shell and they give out grunts, seeking mother’s help.
The female alligator has a special method to test the unbroken eggs for the signs of life. She gently picks up an egg with her teeth and slowly rolls it on her tongue. If she doesn’t detect any movement or any sign of life inside, she knows that the egg is infertile and she gulps it. But if she feels some movement inside the egg, she very gently cracks the egg with her teeth and tilts her head forward or on one side for the baby to come out.
So, a mother is a mother! When it comes to her babies, even an alligator and her sharp teeth turn gentle and treat the babies softly.
Some other facts: Alligators are cold-blooded animals, which means they cannot regulate their own body temperature but assume temperature of the surroundings. Their life span is around 60 years. They eat fish, birds, snakes, frogs etc. These creatures can be easily detected at night because their eyes shine in the beam of light.
Image Source: National Geographic.