Fertile eggs were obtained from the nests of wild and captive-breeding alligators in Louisiana, USA. Whereas embryo hatchability ofthe wild eggs was 94%, in the captive eggs it was only 500%. Analysis of the lipid and fatty acid compositions of the yolks showed extensive differences between the two sets of eggs. In particular, the lipids of the yolks from the captive eggs displayed considerably lower levels of C20 and C22 polyunsaturated fatty acids and higher levels of C18 polyunsaturates than the wild eggs. More specifically, overall levels of n-6 polyunsaturates were increased at the expense of n-3 acids in the captive eggs. In view of the specific role of C20 and C22 polyunsaturated fatty acids in embryo development, it is proposed that the yolk fatty acid compositional differences and the difference in hatchability are associated.