Crocodiles are enormous reptiles that can be found in the tropics of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia. They belong to the Crocodilia order, which includes caimans, gharials, and alligators.
Crocodiles come in a variety of sizes and are found in 13 different species. According to the Zoological Society of London, the dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) grows to around 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) in length and weighs 13 to 15 pounds (6 to 7 kilograms). According to Oceana.org, the largest, saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), can grow up to 23 feet (6.5 m) in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds (907 kg).
Where Do Crocodiles Get Their Food?
Crocodiles are carnivores, meaning that they only eat meat. They eat fish, birds, frogs, and crabs in the wild. Crocs occasionally feed on each other. They eat small animals that have been killed for them in captivity, such as rats, fish, or mice. According to The Australian Museum, they also devour live locusts.
Crocodiles in the wild use their large jaws to clamp down on food, crush it, and then devour it whole. They are unable to chew or break apart little amounts of food like other animals.
Crocodiles swallow little stones that ground up the food in their stomachs to aid digestion. Crocodiles can go months without eating due to their poor metabolism.
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Where Can You Find Crocodiles?
The Crocodilia order includes some of the top species in the food chain about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era. Crocodiles can now be found throughout the tropics of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. They prefer to reside near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, wetlands, and even saltwater.
Crocodiles are cold-blooded and cannot create their own heat, hence they prefer tropical conditions. According to Animalia, they undergo a hibernation-like condition of inactivity known as aestivation during the winter months, which entails slowing down all body activities. During long periods of drought, crocodiles also aestivate. They dig a tunnel in the side of a riverbank or lake and settle in for a long nap to establish a spot to hibernate.
Crocodiles Are They Dinosaurs?
Crocodiles and dinosaurs are not the same, despite sharing many traits and having lived on the earth during the Mesozoic era.
Dinosaurs and crocs are both members of the archosaur reptile subclass, which first emerged in the fossil record some 250 million years ago, during the Triassic epoch. Archosaur evolution separated into two courses by the end of the Triassic period: one branch evolved into the oldest relatives of crocodiles and alligators, while the other branch evolved into dinosaurs, birds, and flying reptiles (also known as pterosaurs).
A global extinction wiped out nonavian dinosaurs and flying reptiles around 66 million years ago, near the end of the Cretaceous epoch. Crocodilians and birds are the only archosaurs left today.
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Crocodiles lay between 12 and 48 eggs per clutch. The hatchlings spend 55 to 100 days in their eggs. The temperature of a crocodile egg at a vital point during the first half of its incubation cycle determines the sex of each crocodile kid.
Crocodile babies are born with a length of 7 to 10 inches (18 to 25 cm) and do not mature until they are 4 to 15 years old. According to Animalia, the lifespan of a crocodile varies depending on the species; some, like the Dwarf crocodile, can live up to 40 years, while others, like the Nile crocodile, can live up to 80 years.
Are Crocodiles at Risk?
The Cuban crocodile is one of the most endangered crocodile species on the planet. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it is critically endangered and has a population of only approximately 4,000 individuals (IUCN). The species is constantly threatened by poaching.
The IUCN lists the American crocodile as vulnerable, yet its population is growing.
Crocodile Vs. Alligator
What’s the difference between alligators and crocodiles? For starters, an alligator’s jaw is U-shaped, whereas a crocodile is V-shaped, according to Live Science. Furthermore, when crocodiles close their jaws, their teeth protrude above their upper lip, whereas alligators’ teeth do not.
Crocodiles have salt glands on their tongues, which is another difference between alligators and crocodiles. Crocs can survive in saline water thanks to their modified salivary glands. According to the Crocodilian Biology Database, alligators and caimans have lost their ability to release extra salt through their tongue glands and prefer to dwell in freshwater environments.
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Crocodiles: the Facts
A crocodile’s eye in close-up. Have you noticed any tears yet?
When a crocodile loses a tooth, it is replaced almost immediately. According to the San Diego Zoo, these reptiles can go through 8,000 teeth in their lifespan.
Crocodiles do not perspire. They open their mouths in a behavior known as “mouth gaping,” which is similar to panting, to stay cool.
A person who expresses fake remorse is said to be “crying crocodile tears.” It’s a proverb that dates from the 16th century. According to the Crocodilian Biology Database, crocodiles do, in fact, shed tears. Their lacrimal glands secrete a fluid called the nictitating membrane behind their third eyelid. The fluid is used to clean, lubricate, and disinfect the eye. Crocodile tears aren’t visible until the crocodile has been out of the water for a long and the eyes have dried out.
According to National Geographic, a crocodile’s jaws can exert 3,700 pounds of pressure per square inch. This means that they can easily bite through a human arm or leg. A human jaw, by comparison, only exerts roughly 100 pounds of pressure per square inch. The crocodile’s jaw, on the other hand, has very little opening strength; a crocodile’s mouth can be shut with a rubber band.
Crocodiles have excellent hearing in addition to their powerful jaws. It’s so good that they can hear their infants’ cries from within their eggs.
Crocodiles can swim quite quickly, which aids them in catching their prey. According to the Northern Territory government in Australia, they can swim up to 18 mph (29 km/h) and hold their breath underwater for around an hour. Crocodiles are slower on land, with top speeds of 11 mph (18 km/h) for a short distance.
This article was written with the help of Nina Sen. Brandon Specktor, a senior writer at Live Science, who updated this post on March 4, 2022.