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Siamese crocodile laying eggs

September's Pic of the Month was taken by Thomas Rexroad II of the St Augustine Alligator Farm. Their Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) are becoming regulars on these pages, but they provide such excellent photographic opportunities that we don't mind.

This photograph shows an intimate view of the adult female laying eggs into the nest, which is a mound made from vegetation and mud. Immediately prior to laying eggs, the female climbs onto the nest and excavates a relatively deep nesting chamber using her back legs. Once complete, she begins the careful process of laying eggs. Standing on her hind legs, the female arches her back slightly as the oviducts contract, slowly pushing eggs down towards her vent. Eventually the vent expands and the egg slides out, normally covered in a thick layer of gelatinous, clear mucus. This mucus cushions the egg as drops into the chamber, with females of some species even going as far as "catching" eggs in their back feet to lessen their fall.

The uppermost egg in the photograph is in the process of emerging from the vent, and the mucus layer is quite visible. Once free, it rolls over previously-laid eggs and comes to rest randomly in the chamber. Once all the eggs are laid, the female uses her legs to pull nesting material back into the hole, covering the eggs completely. Within 24 hours, a small white spot forms on the upper surface of the eggs, sealed within their darkened chamber. Over the next 10 to 12 weeks, most of the eggs should form into normal hatchlings and eventually emerge, assisted by the female attracted by their distinctive calls. Alas, the nesting chamber is never completely safe: 12 weeks is a long time to wait when overheating, flooding, and the inquisitive noses of predators are a potential danger.



Do you have a photograph which you'd like to become the Pic of the Month? Submit it and I'll select the best. The best photograph I receive each year will receive a prize - an Ilfochrome print - to be awarded in December.


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