Crocodiles are intriguing reptiles, equipped with durable skin and specialized features for stealthy underwater hunting. Their unique adaptations make them captivating subjects to explore and understand their incredible survival skills.
Crocodile Facts for Kids
- Crocodiles are reptiles
- Crocodiles grow their entire lives.
- While slow in the water, crocodiles are fast on land over short distances.
- Crocs have between 60 and 110 teeth
- They can live between 70 and 100 years
- The saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile on Earth
Types of Crocodiles
There are currently 24 different types of crocodilians in the world, including the recent addition of the West African crocodile.
These are some of the most differentiating:
Located through South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Florida, the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a crocodilian species that is the most common in the Americas.
The habitat is mostly along with coastal ocean areas because it prefers saline but can also be found in mangrove swamps, lagoons, brackish lakes, small islands, and cays. The American croc is one of the largest, with males growing up to 20 feet long and weighing up to 2,000 pounds and females growing to over 12 feet in length.
American crocodiles are top-level predators, so they have no natural predators. They are considered predators of lemon sharks, which avoid any area with them.
Only found in Cuba, the Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is a small-to-medium-sized with a length of up to 7.5 feet and a maximum weight of 175 pounds. Despite their moderate size, they are incredibly aggressive and poses a threat to humans that enter its territory. This croc is of great interest to biologists because of its unique behavioral and physical traits.
They are the most terrestrial of all, with the preferred habitat comprising freshwater environments like rivers and marshes. Adults feed on turtles, fish, and small mammals, while the young consume smaller fish and invertebrates. Captive Cuban crocs show cooperative hunting and can even be taught tricks that display intelligence.
The dwarf crocodile (osteolaemus tetraspis) is the smallest with a typical adult length of up to 6.25 feet and weighing up to 180 pounds. Generic sampling has identified three distinct populations within the species, and some biologists feel these findings warrant the subspecies to full status.
All three subspecies are found along the Upper Congo River Basin and in Western Africa. Unlike others, the dwarf croc has timid behavior and is primarily nocturnal, which hides in burrows or pools during the day.
Hunting is conducted near or in the water despite being the most terrestrial. If no food is available near the water, the dwarf croc may expand into land on extensive journeys, especially following rainstorms. They feed on gastropods, lizards, fish, crabs, insects, water birds, shrews, bats, and frogs.
The freshwater (Crocodylus johnstoni) is a type of crocodile indigenous to the northern sections of Australia. Freshies are not considered maneaters, although non-fatal attacks have occurred if they feel threatened.
Freshwater crocs are small for the crocodilian family, with males growing to a little under 10 feet and females reaching around seven feet in length. Males typically weigh around 150 pounds, with the largest specimens weighing 220 pounds or more, and females weigh around 88 pounds.
This large and aggressive crocodilian is native to the freshwater environments in 26 countries in Africa. Due to its stable population trend and widespread abundance, the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is on the Least Concern species list.
The Nile croc lives in a variety of aquatic habitats in the eastern, central, and southern areas of the continent. These include rivers, marshlands, swamps, and lakes, all freshwater, but can live in saline environments. The adult male Nile croc can grow to over 16 feet in length and weigh up to 1,650 pounds. It is considered the largest freshwater predator in Africa and the second-largest reptile on Earth, behind the saltwater.
They are an aggressive apex predator capable of hunting almost any animal within range. They take a variety of prey, including birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals, by waiting for hours, days, and weeks in the brush for the right moment to attack. Nile crocs are agile and wait for the opportunity for prey to come within range. Unlike others, Nile crocs are social creatures that share basking spots and food sources.
Located in freshwater environments between Southern Iran and the Indian subcontinent, the mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) is a medium-sized freshie that can be found in marshes, lakes, artificial ponds, and rivers.
Adult and young mugger crocs burrow into the ground when the temperature dips below 41F or above 100F. Females dig nests in the sand and lay up to 46 eggs in the dry season. The hatchling sex depends on the temperature during the incubation period. The mugger croc eats birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals, with the young feeding on insects.
As the largest and most aggressive reptile on Earth, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is native to saltwater environments and wetlands ranging from India’s east coast throughout Southeast Asia and into the Northern Australia and Micronesia regions.
Males can grow over 20 feet in length and weigh up to 2,900 pounds. Females rarely surpass 10 feet in length. As an apex predator, the saltwater croc ambushes its prey to drown it then swallow the creature whole. The saltwater croc can dominate any animal that enters its territory, including various freshwater and saltwater fish, sharks, mammals, reptiles, birds, and humans.
Located across Indonesia, Brunei, East Malaysia, and southern Indochina, the Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) is a medium-sized freshwater croc that is critically endangered and has been extirpated from multiple regions.
The Siamese croc is medium-sized, with adults growing to 10 feet in length and weighing up to 155 pounds. This croc species features a smooth and broad snout with a bony, elevated crest behind its eyes.
They live in a variety of freshwater environments, including marshes, seasonal oxbow lakes, rivers, streams, swamplands, and lakes. Adults hunt snakes, fish, small mammals, and amphibians. They are considered one of the most endangered on Earth but is extensively bred in captivity.
What are the characteristics of a crocodile?
Crocodiles are large, prehistoric-looking reptiles located around the world in the hottest tropical regions.
They have been on Earth for between 80 and 245 million years and are considered the ultimate predators. These large reptiles have common characteristics that differentiate them from the common alligator, including:
What Do Crocodiles Look Like?
Crocodiles are grayish-green reptiles with a narrow, V-shaped snout and strong, powerful jaws. Their visible fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw sets them apart from alligators, making them easily identifiable in their coastal and brackish habitats.
They are typically solitary animals but will work together when hunting. In areas with a large amount of prey, they do congregate in large groups. For reproduction, males mate with multiple females but do not form a bond with any individual female.
Females dig a hole or form a pile of wet vegetation (depending on the species) when laying eggs. With crocodile species, the female will assist the offspring with hatching and carry their newborns to water. Female crocs also tend to their young for the first year of life.
How many teeth do crocodiles have?
Their cone-shaped and pointed teeth are located on the outside of the jawline. Crocodiles are stocked with an impressive 60 to 110 teeth at any given time, depending on the species.
Once a tooth becomes old, a new tooth will quickly move into place. Interestingly, the tooth replacement process occurs in waves from the back to front in young crocodiles and from front to back as they become older. The wave means that all teeth are replaced by newer, stronger teeth.
Remember that does not mean their entire set of teeth falls out at once but slowly over time. As the old teeth fall out, new teeth are waiting in the sockets. Crocs commonly go through around 8,000 teeth over their life!
Some have “holding teeth” that are strong enough to chew prey but not sharp, but other teeth are as sharp as glass. The large-jawed ones can bite up to 5,000 pounds of force per square inch.
In comparison, I can generate only 100 pounds of force per square inch with my bite. They apply this power by snapping their mouth closed over the prey. This amount of force is the strongest bite among predators. Also, crocs do not have sweat glands, so they release heat through their mouth, just like a panting dog.
Do crocodiles communicate with each other?
As top-level predators, crocs are well equipped for their environment, boasting a highly developed sense of smell, an acute sense of hearing, exceptional vision, and extraordinary mechano-reception abilities.
These sensory traits are also incredibly helpful with their social life as they interact chemically, visually, and acoustically. More specifically, the acoustic communication that occurs between female crocodiles and their young is critical for survival.
When babies mature, while still inside their eggs, hatchlings produce calls and respond to other hatchlings’ vocalizations. This communication helps to synchronize hatching.
The mother also responds by opening the nest, assisting the young out of the shells, and taking them in her mouth to the water. As she protects them for her first year, the young crocs continue to communicate acoustically with their mother and siblings. It is only until recently that biologists have been able to decipher the mechanisms surrounding crocodile acoustic communication.
Where do saltwater crocodiles live?
All crocs have special glands within their tongue that can eliminate excess salt, so they commonly live in saltwater habitats like estuaries and mangrove swamps. On the other hand, alligators do not have these specialized glands, so they live in freshwater environments.
Saltwater crocodiles or “salties” live in a huge range of locations around the globe extending from Northern Australia to Eastern India, Southeast Asia, and North and South America.
The only locations they are not found is in Europe and Antarctica. Salties feast on mammals, birds, and fish, with most hunting occurring at night. Even the smaller crocs can hunt decently large prey, and almost no mammals or animals can escape a male saltwater croc, including humans and sharks.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule! Freshwater crocodiles or “freshies” exist but are only found in the lakes, rivers, and billabongs of Northern Australia.
These special crocodiles can tolerate saltwater but are typically kept upstream in the freshwater by the large saltwater crocs. Freshies are much smaller in size than their saltwater brothers and feature sharper teeth with narrower snouts. The most consumed food by freshies is fish and insects, but they also dine on spiders, lizards, frogs, mammals, snakes, birds, and crustaceans.
More Fun Crocodile Facts
- The crocodilian’s tongue is attached to the bottom of its mouth, so it never moves.
- Crocs store fat in their tails, allowing them to go up to two years for large adults without eating.
- Saltwater crocodiles are the largest crocs on Earth and feel comfortable in freshwater and saltwater environments but typically stick to coastlines.
- The mugger croc is the only one that breeds twice per year, laying a batch of eggs between 30 and 57 days apart.
- The Nile crocodile is always featured in Tarzan movies and cartoons.
- They have more pointed snouts than alligators, and their bottom and top jaws are the same sizes.
- They are considered ambush hunters who wait out of sight for their prey then swoop in when the timing is right.
- The physical characteristics of crocs, excellent smell, fantastic swimmers, largemouths, and sharp teeth, make them excellent predators.
- Although the croc’s snap bite is incredibly strong, the muscles that hold open their mouth are not. A reasonably strong human can hold a crocodile’s jaw closed with only their bare hands.
- Like alligators, they are part of the “Crocodylia” family.
- Although they are classified as reptiles, crocs are most closely related to dinosaurs and birds (avian dinosaurs) than most other animals classified as reptiles.
- They come in a variety of sizes. The biggest is the saltwater which can be seen from Fiji to Northern Australia and India. It can get as large as 7 meters (23 feet) in length and weigh as might as 1 ton.
- The average egg is about the size of a goose egg
- The dwarf crocodile is the smallest of the breed and can be found in central Africa. It grows to a maximum of 1.9 meters (6.5 feet)
- Their skin on the underbelly is durable and soft and is considered to be one of the best to use. In some tribes, their skin is a high-status symbol.
- The outer skin is covered in a bonelike material and can deflect spears, arrows, or bullets.
Crocodiles produce tears. When they eat, they swallow too much air that contacts their lachrymal glands which forces the tears to start flowing.
- Their eyes bubble and froth when they are feeding due to air being pushed through the sinus areas. This mixes with the tear glands and ends up looking like tears.
- The value of their skin has launched a lot of poaching
- The establishment of controlled crocodile farms may be the only way to save many of the species from being completely destroyed.
- The ancient Egyptians and some tribes in New Guinea are just two of the cultures that honored the crocodile. Their religions included the belief that their gods had bodies that were similar to crocodiles.
- They are typically more aggressive during the monsoon season as this is also their mating season.
They don’t chew their food
Their 24 teeth are sharp and designed to crush and grab.
Instead, they swallow stones that help to grind up the food inside their stomachs while the stones also act as ballast while they are in the water.
If a crocodile loses any teeth, they will always be replaced throughout their life.
The crocodile has incredible biting down strength but they lack any strength in opening their jaws back up.
That’s the reason that a simple band can be used to hold their jaws shut.
Even though they have a dangerous looking mouth, they are also very delicate.
A mother can gently remove her babies from the nest with her mouth.