American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) weight gain in captivity and implications for captive reptile body condition

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Faith Kruis, Madison Wallwork, Marisa Spain, Adam E Rosenblatt
Zoo Biology
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The body condition of an animal is an indicator of health status and is dependent upon many factors, some of which can vary between wild and captive settings. Despite this, there have not been many studies on how captivity affects body condition relative to wild animal populations. This study explores the body condition of captive and wild American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) because reptiles are frequently overlooked in studies of captive animal health and because alligators are well-represented in captivity. We collected body condition data from 209 captive alligators and 935 wild alligators throughout Florida and southeastern Georgia and compared the relationships between body condition and body length for each group. We found that captive alligators exhibited significantly higher body condition values as they aged, and that this result was driven by the difference between captive and wild males. Body condition values for captive juveniles did not differ from wild juveniles, but they differed when comparing adults. Our results suggest that factors such as diet and movement rates play major roles in determining alligator body condition and that body condition may be an important metric for monitoring captive alligator health, especially for older adult males.


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