How Do Reptiles Mate? (Explained and Quick Facts)


Have you wondered how reptiles like snakes and lizards reproduce? Do they ever mate?

Most reptiles mate with sexual intercourse resulting in internal fertilization. When these reptiles mate, the male introduces sperm through its penis (often one or two) into the female’s cloaca. This sperm internally fertilizes the eggs inside the female’s cloaca. Other reptiles mate by positioning their cloaca close for sperm transfer. Upon fertilization, most reptiles eject the fertilized eggs while a minority retains the eggs inside until they hatch.

There are even more questions to answer when it comes to reptile reproduction. How often do they mate? Do reptiles mate for life? Do reptiles give birth? How if yes?

Read on to find credible answers to these questions.

How Do Reptiles Mate?

There are two prominent mating techniques in reptiles via which the male’s sperm is introduced into the female body.

The first is by cloacal apposition. This technique is dominant in tuatara reptiles.

Here, the male strategically positions its cloaca with its female partner’s cloaca for copulation.

The cloaca is typically a tract that leads into the reptile’s urinary and intestinal system. If done successfully, semen is transferred from the male’s cloaca into the female.

The second mating technique involves the introduction of sperm into the female via the male’s sex organ.

The latter is common in reptiles whose males have penises or hemipenes. Reptiles like snakes and lizards have hemipenes, while reptiles like crocodiles and turtles have a penis.

By insertion, sperm transfer occurs from male to female. This transfer is followed by the delivery of the sperm to the oviduct, from where they move closer to the ovary.

Successful fertilization involves the union of the eggs – which the ovary secretes during ovulation – and the deposited semen.

How Often Do Reptiles Mate?

There is no defined frequency for all reptiles to mate. Most reptile species mate during various seasons, especially determined by prevailing weather conditions.

For example, snakes in colder climes tend to enter their mating season in the spring once they stop hibernating. But snakes in hotter climes are not as selective, freely mating at just anytime in the year.

For North American lizards, they tend to mate and breed once in the year, commonly in spring.

For turtles, it depends on if they are in the wild or in captivity, where they have artificially regulated controlled weather conditions.

Turtles in the wild mate in the spring as they emerge from hibernation. But pet turtles in captivity mate just any time of the year.

How Do Reptiles Attract Mates?

Sexual coercion is extremely rare in reptiles, as most would have to court before voluntary mating. This means one of the couples – commonly the male – would have to attract his partner.

These techniques (for attracting mating partners) vary across reptiles. Take male chameleons, for example.

To attract a befitting female partner for mating, the male chameleon changes colors. It is different in male turtles, which would have to continuously bob their head (up-down) to attract a partner.

Some reptiles emit pheromones to attract partners for mating. Pheromones are chemical fragrances that the opposite sex finds inviting.

The release of pheromone is common in reptiles like snakes and scleroglossan lizards. These chemicals can sexually stimulate the female that contacts them, making them more submissive to the male for mating.

What Reptiles Mate for Life?

The bulk of reptiles is not monogamous. Instead, most reptiles tend to engage in polygyny.

Here the male mates with several females across their lifespan. Commonly, in every mating season, the male reptile goes searching for a partner who he leaves after mating.

The following mating season would involve such a male reptile seeking a new female partner and so on.

The shingleback lizard is one of the extremely few reptiles that mate for life.

With large populations in Australia, the male and female shingleback lizards stay for life after pairing.

Upon successful fertilization and reproduction, the male and female shingleback share parenting duties. The duty of feeding the young ones is distributed between both parents.

So committed are these lizards that couples have been repeatedly observed by scientists rubbing their heads together as they walk.

Across the year, the couples would separate, reconnecting to mate in the breeding season, which occurs between September and November.

How Do Reptiles Give Birth?

Once the eggs mix with the semen and fertilization occurs, the embryo (herein the fertilized egg) begins to develop.

Such development entails consecutive stages of division into smaller cells.

Oviparous reptiles like turtles and crocodiles give birth by laying amniotic eggs. These eggs are protectively housed in a tough shell.

This egg is further enhanced with specially adapted membranes that keep the embryo from completely drying.

But not all reptiles give birth by laying eggs. There are viviparous reptiles like the common lizard that retain their eggs inside their body long enough to hatch them internally.

This type gives birth to their young ones alive.

When Do Reptiles Give Birth?

It depends on the surrounding weather. Reptiles staying in temperate regions can are pregnant for 2-3 months after which they give birth.

Do All Lizards Lay Eggs?

9 in every 10 lizards lay eggs. Laying eggs for these lizards is fundamental to reproduction.

But lizards like the Viviparous lizard don’t lay eggs. They give live birth. Let us talk about them.

Do Lizards Give Live Birth?

Some lizards display viviparity, where they birth live young.

The common lizard is one of the prominent viviparous reptiles. Viviparity is also displayed in skinks. But such reproductive behavior varies depending on the weather conditions in the skink’s habitat.

One in every three skinks living in tropical climes will birth their young alive. Those in extreme latitude areas or frigid regions like mountains are predominantly livebearers.

The New Zealand gecko is another closely related species that births its young ones live. More interestingly, the New Zealand gecko usually gives birth to two live young ones at once.

You Might Also Like:

Recent Posts