Are reptiles solitary animals, or do they prefer to aggregate? In addition to these hypotheses there are others, do they only gather at the time of mating and/or laying? Or even to hibernate? Or to sunbathe? Yes, as Humans like to do, at summer time.
However, reptiles need the sun to increase their body temperature, because they are ectothermic animals, which, humans, are not, we just like vitamin D, right? But then let’s come to the subject that really brought us here: the social behaviour of reptiles.
After all, do these animals like company or do they prefer to be alone rather than badly accompanied? Now, let’s look at the diversity that exists in this article.
Starting with the spectacular turtles, I risk saying that you may have already seen in documentaries these reptiles traveling to the beach to lay their eggs, did you also notice that they rarely do it alone? Usually when one does, there is more to do, in the same place, let’s say they nest en masse, and regularly, on the same beaches, which can make them vulnerable to predators, and in particular, to Man.
Some migratory species concentrate in large numbers, for a period of time, to nest. In turtles there can be hierarchy, when turtle territories overlap there can be dominance relations.
Most aquatic turtles gather at the time of mating, and can also gather to sleep! Yes, to hibernate. Or to sunbathe, as is the example of the species: Chrysemys picta. In addition, there is a peculiar behaviour among some turtles, because they remove algae and scales from each other’s shells with their mouths.
Lizards can be more threatening when an intruder invades their space, they adopt attitudes such as: change color, open their mouths so as to appear more aggressive, swell so as to appear bigger and more ferocious, some may wag their tail abruptly to frighten off invaders or even shake their head showing their displeasure.
In the breeding season there may be variations and for example, in the case of the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), the males delimit their territories, often there are fights between them, who leave winner has a prize: larger and better territory, wider, usually mating more often. Young iguanas, often remain in groups, some can exchange tongue blows, expand their skin folds and rub against each other.
It is indeed an important component – communication – it is not just us humans who communicate with each other, however, media such as mobile messages are not the reptiles’ option, but rather, for example: chemical means, more precisely mucous glands located at the level of the thighs or even in the cloacal region.
Generally more visible and larger in males, which release secretions to mark their territory and often also to attract females, as many other living beings do however, it is not always the general rule that only males have glands of this type, because in females of some species, these structures are also present.
Snakes in the mating season can become quite aggressive, because again the males are seduced by the odor that the females release at this time. A chemical secretion is released, more specifically a pheromone, which serves as an indicator, in this case, for the males, transmitting them that their “partners” are receptive to mate.
The males detect this hormonal indicator by their Jacobson organ – which I mentioned in the previous article. In some species, males compete and fight frequently for the female, in other species the males fight even in the absence of the female, raise their heads as much as they can, raising their tails, and these long fights determine who mates with that female.
However, this is not always the case, often one male only repels another, and does not take long periods of time to fight, there is one that simply withdraws.
In crocodiles, what may be more curious in terms of social behavior is the fact that these animals, particularly females, are constantly patrolling their nest. When the cubs are about to hatch, they start by breaking the shell, already being sensitive to external stimuli, they release some acute grunts when they feel the vibrations that the mother makes, as if they were communicating something like:
“It’s time to leave the egg. In most species, it is the female who carries the newborn cubs in her mouth full of extremely strong teeth, with their impenetrable jaws, and extremely safe for their chicks. Some species have authentic aquatic “nurseries”, and what is curious is that these animals make an accompaniment that can often be quite prolonged, to their young.
Which are extremely vulnerable when they are still small, because there are always predators lurking, and all the care is little, even for one of the most ferocious predators in the animal kingdom. This is called balance of nature, for every predator there is a prey, and every predator can become prey, depending on the circumstances.