Crocodiles are dangerous predators in the animal kingdom. They can live in both land and water. A crocodile’s straight body helps it to swim easily. While swimming its webbed feet work to propel its heavy body through the water. For such a physical structure they can turn fast and make sudden moves in the water. A crocodile can easily move in shallow water for its webbed foot. Their flat body helps them easily hide underwater. While submerging into water, they close their nostrils for blocking water from entering their noses.
Crocodiles have two holes in each side of their skulls. It is called a diapsid. Like other reptiles, crocodiles can’t stick out their tongues. Their skin is smooth on two sides and their bellies. In contrast, their backs are covered with large and hard scales. It is called the osteoderm. This hard layer protects its inner skin. Using their back they can absorb heat to keep their inner body temperature warm. Like lateral lines in fishes (a sensory organ), crocodiles’ osteoderm layer helps them to sense any kind of movement in the water.
A crocodile can grow its teeth many times during its lifetime. That’s why it is called a polyphyodont. Crocodiles also have flat and powerful jaws. Their jaws are V-shaped or U-shaped. Some of the species can easily hunt down an animal as big as a wild boar with the help of their jaws. You can imagine how strong their jaws are!
Apart from that they also have sharp teeth in their jaws for piercing and holding their prey.
You can read about the difference between alligators and crocodiles here, Alligators v Crocodiles, Which Is Which?
Range & habitat
Crocodiles spend a significant amount of their life in water. It is not that they don’t prefer being on land. They are generally found in freshwater sources like rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Some species live in brackish water (water saltier than that of freshwater) and saltwater. Unlike alligators, crocodiles live in tropical areas.
Let’s have a look at some species belonging to the crocodile family and know where they live.
American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
American crocodiles live in the Caribbean Basin area. They are distributed in the various regions of the Caribbean islands and South Florida. These crocodiles mostly live in brackish water and some are found near rivers and coastal areas. American crocodiles are classified as vulnerable animals.
Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni)
Freshwater crocodiles live in Northern Australia. They live mostly in rivers and keep a safe distance from the sea to avoid saltwater crocodiles. These crocodiles are smaller in size.
Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
Mugger crocodiles live in the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries. They prefer slow rivers, swamps, and lakes.
West African crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
These crocodiles are distributed throughout Western and Central Africa. They are different from Nile crocodiles.
Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)
Dwarf crocodiles are found in Western Africa. These crocodiles are the smallest of all living crocodiles on the planet. They live in tropical forests of Western Africa. These crocodiles prefer to land and hunt at night. This species has been classified as Vulnerable.
West African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus)
These crocodiles also live in Western Africa. They live in freshwater habitats of tropical forests. These West African crocodiles are one of the Critically Endangered species.
Central African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops leptorhynchus)
These crocodiles live in Central Africa. These medium-sized species live in the wetlands of the rainforest.
Crocodiles are predators. Their hunting style is different from other predators. Crocodiles wait in ambush till their prey comes closer. Then within a few seconds, the prey goes straight down their jaws to their belly. Crocodiles prefer fish, birds, amphibians, and other mammals. Sometimes they show cannibalism and eat smaller crocodiles.
Some species like Nile crocodile and saltwater crocodile mostly eat large mammals like buffalo, deer, and wild boar. Young crocodiles eat small fish and insects. Crocodiles also scavenge on dead animals and steal from other carnivores.
Behavior & lifestyle
Crocodiles are very social animals. They don’t live in any group but they swim together in certain parts of rivers. They can tolerate each other while feeding and basking. Saltwater crocodiles are highly aggressive, unlike others.
There is a hierarchy in the crocodile world. The strongest male is always at the top. Females are given importance during group feeding.
Crocodiles produce a variety of sounds. They use their sounds in different situations like communication, showing domination, courtship to females, etc. Their sounds are classified into chirping, distress calls, threat calls, hatching calling, and bellowing.
Do you know crocodiles use camouflaging skills to catch prey? You can read about Crocodile Animal Camouflage here.
Fun crocodile facts
Here is a list of “Top 10 Fun Crocodile Facts” that will definitely amaze you!
- Crocodiles can send 20 different messages by making specific sounds.
- Some large species of crocodiles live for more than 100 years!
- A crocodile can run up to 10-11 km/hour. It’s called “belly run”.
- A crocodile has the strongest bite of any animal!
- They can hunt down a wild bear or a buffalo easily!
- A crocodile has a four-chambered heart like humans.
- Crocodiles can replace their teeth up to 50 times!
- Crocodiles release heat through their mouth like a dog.
- Four species of freshwater crocodiles can climb a tree easily!
- Crocodiles can filter out salt from their body using salt glands.
Meet the crocodile
You can read about Top 10 deadliest animals in Africa here.
Did you enjoy learning more about the Nile crocodile? Have you ever met this unique creature face-to-face? Tell us about your crocodile experience in the comment section below. Because those who care share!
- Guggisberg, C. A. W. (1972). Crocodiles: Their Natural History, Folklore, and Conservation. Newton Abbot, England: David & Charles. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-7153-5272-4.
- Buchanan, L.A. (2009). “Kambara taraina sp. nov (Crocodylia, Crocodyloidea), a new Eocene mekosuchine from Queensland, Australia, and a revision of the genus”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 29 (2): 473–486. doi:10.1671/039.029.0220.
- “American Crocodiles, American Crocodile Pictures, American Crocodile Facts – National Geographic”. Animals.nationalgeographic.com. 15 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- “IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group”. Crocodilian.com. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- . Crocodile Species List. Retrieved on 2013-04-13.
- Crocodile Specialist Group (1996). “Crocodylus porosus”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 1996: e.T5668A11503588. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T5668A11503588.en.
- Nile crocodile is two species, Nature.com
- Schmitz, A.; Mausfeld, P.; Hekkala, E.; Shine, T.; Nickel, H.; Amato, G. & Böhme, W. (2003). “Molecular evidence for species level divergence in African Nile crocodiles Crocodylus niloticus (Laurenti, 1786)”. Comptes Rendus Palevol. 2 (8): 703–12. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2003.07.002.
- Eaton, Mitchell J.; Andrew Martin; John Thorbjarnarson; George Amato (March 2009). “Species-level diversification of African dwarf crocodiles (Genus Osteolaemus): A geographic and phylogenetic perspective”. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 50 (3): 496–506. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.11.009. PMID 19056500.
- Grigg, Gordon and Gans, Carl (1993) Morphology And Physiology Of The Crocodylia Archived 20 July 2005 at the Wayback Machine, in Fauna of Australia Vol 2A Amphibia and Reptilia, chapter 40, pp. 326–336. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
- Huchzermeyer, Fritz (2003). Crocodiles: Biology, Husbandry and Diseases. CABI Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-85199-656-1.
- Wednesday, 25 April 2012 Anna SallehABC (25 April 2012). “Antacid armour key to tetrapod survival”. www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
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