Crocodiles are reptiles that live in swampy areas and near river banks. The word crocodile is taken from the Greek word 'crocodilos' meaning lizard. They belong to the family Crocodylidae and bear a close resemblance to alligators and gharials. They are believed to have descended from the dinosaurs and are the largest reptiles of the world. They are also one of the oldest living things on Earth and are known to have inhabited the planet for more than 200 million years. These reptiles are mainly inhabitants of Asia, Africa and Australia. Crocodiles are mainly of two types - freshwater and saltwater crocodiles.
Before we see some amazing information on this reptile, let us take a look at the taxonomy of crocodiles;
|Sub family:||Crocodylinae and Tomistominae|
|Species:||Crocodylus acutus, Crocodylus cataphractus, Crocodylus palustris|
Facts about Crocodile
There are approximately 23 species of crocodiles, found globally. They are interesting reptiles that look like a large lizard. Given below are some facts to give you an in-depth information about this river lizard.
- Depending on their species, crocodiles can grow up to a length of 5 meters or 16 feet.
- Their natural habitat is rivers, wetlands, lakes, etc. Sometimes they are also found in muddy or brackish water which offer an excellent camouflage for hunting.
- Saltwater crocodile is the largest of the species. This species can grow up to a length of 7 meters or 23 feet and weigh up to 1 ton approximately.
- The smallest is the dwarf crocodile, which grows up to 6.5 feet or 2 meters approximately.
- At a single time, a female can lay up to 20 to 80 eggs, in a small hole dug by her before laying the eggs.
- The gestation period (or the time taken by the fetus to develop into a complete organism) of the crocodiles is approximately 80 days.
- Their diet mainly consists of fish, mammals, birds and at times, smaller crocodiles.
American Crocodile Facts
The American crocodile is mostly found in Florida, USA and approximately about 500 to 1200 specimens are found in Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park. Though they belong to the same species, there is a subtle difference between alligators and crocodiles.
- Crocodylus acutus or the American crocodile originally got its name from Georges Cuvier, a French zoologist and naturalist. But it gained the common name sharp-snout alligator, though it is a crocodile.
- The largest number of American crocodiles are found on the island of Hispaniola, in Lago Enriquillo, a large saline water lake, situated in the Dominican Republic. They are also found at the mouths of rivers, estuaries and coastal lagoons.
- This species can grow up to a length of 15 feet and weigh more than 1000 pounds (or 450 kilograms) approximately.
- They are found mostly in saltwater or brackish water and can tolerate even high levels of salinity. In order to cope with the saltwater environment, American crocodiles drink huge quantities of water to keep the salt levels down.
- These reptiles cannot tolerate cold and can die if the atmospheric temperature drops below 60 ºF (or 15 ºC).
- The female lays up to a dozen eggs and takes care of her hatchlings till they are 2 years old.
- It feeds on insects, snakes, frogs, turtles and smaller mammals.
Apart from the aforementioned, there are some more impressive facts that are unknown to many. Take a look at them to know what a fascinating creature this reptile is!
- The first species of crocodiles appeared 240 million years ago and are said to have evolved from dinosaurs. This is the same time the dinosaurs existed. They are closely related to dinosaurs and birds than other reptiles.
- Though crocodiles have a set of 24 teeth on each jaw, they cannot chew their food. Their teeth are more developed for grasping and tearing.
- In order to dive deeper into the water, crocodiles swallow small stones that increase their body weight.
- The eyes have a thin layer of membrane, behind the retina, called tapetum which reflects light, making their eyes glow like shiny red dots.
- The back skin is so rough that nothing can pierce them. Can you believe that their back skin can deflect bullets, spears and arrows too?
- The biggest crocodile in the world is the Crocodylus porosus or the saltwater crocodile (also known as the estuarine crocodile). They are so vicious that they can even hunt animals which are of the same size as them.
- The Nile crocodile is one of the most aggressive and voracious of all species of crocodiles. It even feeds on human beings and animals.
- In order to cool off, these cold-blooded reptiles spend time on the river banks with their mouth wide open. Some species are known to get the help of small birds to keep parasites off their teeth.
- Certain species like Cuban crocodile, African dwarf crocodile and the New Guinea crocodile can gallop like a horse.
- At a single time a female can lay up to 60 eggs. She digs the ground or collects twigs to build a nest to lay eggs. When the eggs begin to crack, the female cracks the shells gently in her mouth to reduce the effort of the hatchlings.
- The life span is approximately 80 years.
- In some tribal communities, the skin of crocodiles is considered to be a symbol of strength and valor.
Kids can be taught to differentiate between alligators and crocodiles by the shape of the snout and skin. They can be given various information about the dwelling place or habitat, their food habit and other characteristics. In order to identify crocodiles from alligators, kids can be taken to zoos and you can ask them to point out the difference between them.
Crocodiles rarely pose a threat to human beings, unless provoked. They are on the verge of extinction as they are being hunted for their skin, which is made into shoes and purses. It's our duty and responsibility to protect these magnificent reptiles from getting wiped off from the face of the Earth.