Alligators have long been known to have incredibly long lifespans, with some living to well over 50 years of age. In fact, when kept safe in captivity, many alligators can live upwards of 70 years, meaning that they can easily directly compete with humans in terms of overall lifespan!
However, new research has recently shown that alligators age in a very different way from how we otherwise expected. Want to know what the research found out, and what it suggests about the lifespan of the average crocodile?
Then make sure to read on down below!
What Did The 35-Year Study Reveal?
The recent results from this 35-year-old study have actually shown that alligators age very differently from other creatures.
The research project itself was first established in the 1970s and was designed to monitor the growth of young alligators throughout their lifespans.
Up until now, with recent results, the assumption has always been that alligators continue to grow exponentially until they die.
However, the results of this long-term study have actually shown that alligators eventually reach a point where they stop growing. This usually occurs around 25 to 30 years of age, and these results first showed themselves around the year 1993.
This totally changes how we understand the lifespans of alligators!
Who Carried Out The 35-Year Study?
The long-term study itself was carried out by Phil Wilkinson, who is now retired, but once operated as the manager of the South Carolina Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center.
Up until the research had been carried out, there was very little that had been done to understand the average lifespan of an alligator, making his research very influential. However, it took around 35 years, as we know, for results to come about.
How Was The Research Carried Out?
Over the course of 35 years, researchers set about measuring sets of alligators regularly, to determine in what ways they had changed over time. This also included collecting things such as blood, urine, and skin samples.
Collecting these samples allowed researchers to analyze some of the smaller changes that occurred within the body of an alligator as it aged.
By 1993, the project was beginning to show that alligators generally stopped growing at around 25 to 30 years old, when they reach their peak of fitness.
Until this research had been carried out, it had already been known that multiple crocodile species stopped growing at certain points in their lives, but it had yet to be discovered in alligators, making the eventual results very impactful!
Why Do Alligators Stop Growing?
The reason that alligators stop growing is because of something called determinant growth, which occurs in a number of species, and causes animals to grow until they reach a physical apex, at which point they are considered fully grown.
This had actually been observed in other species similar to alligators, like crocodiles, but had yet to be observed in alligators!
To Wrap Up
As you can hopefully now see, the determinant growth patterns of alligators have totally changed the way we view the average lifespan of alligators across the world.
Until this 35-year study had been carried out, the general assumption has always been that alligators continue to grow even well into their final years. It was also assumed that alligators in captivity would continue to grow, even as they reached around 70 years of age.
This 35-year study has had a significant impact on alligator conservation and has totally changed how these beautiful creatures are cared for and protected moving into the future, making it very significant and important research.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Old Is The Oldest Alligator?
The oldest recorded alligator in history was Muja, who reached an incredible 85 years old recently. Muja is located at Belgrade Zoo and has very quickly become a tourist attraction thanks to her incredible age.
What Animal Has The Longest Lifespan?
The longest-known lifespan of any vertebrate on the planet is around 300 to 500 years, and this is linked to the Greenland Shark.
This incredible species can be found populating the North Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans and has the incredible size to boast alongside its incredibly long lifespan.
Can Alligators Bond With Humans?
Though alligators have something of a reputation for being incredibly dangerous, considering how quickly they can kill their prey, they can sometimes be very friendly.
Multiple cases of alligators bonding with humans have occurred over the course of history, though these are often few and far between.
Do Alligators Eat People?
Though alligators do not necessarily live off of a diet that includes humans, they have still been known to attack humans, and even eat them.
It is best to always maintain distance between an alligator and yourself, as they can attack very quickly, and can kill just as quickly.
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