Evidence of determinate growth in an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) based on long-term recapture and osteohistological confirmation

Thomas R. Rainwater, Holly N. Woodward, Allan R. Woodward, Philip M. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the general perception that crocodilians exhibit indeterminate growth, recent long-term field studies and laboratory investigations have independently suggested that growth in these animals is determinate. In this study, we had the unique opportunity to examine skeletal growth in a wild adult American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) based on change in body length measurements (snout-vent length) in the field and confirm these findings using osteohistological analyses (presence/absence of an external fundamental system [EFS]) of long bones. The alligator was captured and measured five times over 7 years and exhibited no discernable growth during that period, suggesting skeletal maturity had been attained at or prior to its first capture. Our field assessment of determinate growth in this alligator was osteohistologically confirmed by the presence of an EFS in the animal's humerus, femur, tibia, and fibula. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report determinate growth in a wild crocodilian using both field and laboratory methods, providing further evidence of this growth pattern in crocodilians.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnatomical Record
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Alligator mississippiensis
  • American alligator
  • bone
  • crocodilian
  • external fundamental system
  • field study
  • growth
  • osteohistology

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