Crocodile (animal) – Information, habitat and characteristics

We explain everything about crocodiles, where they live, what they eat and other characteristics. Also, the largest crocodiles in the world.

Crocodiles emerged in the Cretaceous period and changed very little since then.

What are crocodiles?

Normally, we call crocodiles a set of large reptiles and semi-aquatic life, which constitute a zoological order called Crocodilia, in which there are three families:

  • Crocodiles proper (Crocodylidae).
  • The gaviales (Gavialidae).
  • Alligators and alligators (Alligatoridae).

Although not zoologically accurate, it is normal to refer to any of these reptile families as “crocodiles.”

Crocodiles are ferocious animals, robust-bodied predators with thick fur and large serrated mouths, who lead lonely and territorial lives. They arose on the planet during the Upper Cretaceous period, 83.5 million years ago, and have changed very little over the centuries, being today the closest evolutionary relatives of today’s birds.

Known to mankind since ancient times, crocodiles have held a place of respect and fear in different imaginations, often playing the role of ancient and voracious creatures, although in Ancient Egypt they were animals consecrated to Sobek, god of fertility, the vegetation and life, patron of the Nile River where these animals abounded.

Starting in the 9th century, the myth that crocodiles cry for their victims became popular, which gave rise to expressions that refer to “crocodile tears” as a synonym for feigned pain or false sentimentality.

Many species of crocodiles are known, but only eight of them have been involved in attacks on humans. Instead, the main threat to the existence of many species of these animals is the human way of life, due to indiscriminate hunting and the destruction of their habitats.

See also: Wild animals

Crocodile characteristics

crocodile features
Crocodiles are excellent swimmers.

In general, crocodiles are characterized by the following:

  • They are large, trunk-shaped animals, with a solid body that begins in an elongated nose that hides a lot of conical teeth, and ends in a long tail, ideal for propelling the swim. The whole is covered by a rough, hard skin composed of scales.
  • Their total size varies according to the species, but they can be around 2 and 3 meters long., with smaller species that do not exceed one meter, and particularly large species capable of reaching 7 meters in length. Its weight, similarly, can reach 2000 kg in the most voluminous species.
  • They are excellent swimmers, and can also walk on dry land crawling on its belly or walking on its legs, and some species can even gallop at a good speed.
  • His eyes and nose are at the top of his head, allowing the rest of the body to be completely submerged under the water. In this way the crocodiles can sneak up on their prey for attack. They have a very powerful bite.
  • They spend most of their days motionless in the sun, saving the energies of their particularly slow metabolisms, of an ectothermic nature, that is, cold-blooded.
  • Their snouts can vary in shape and thickness depending on the family and species, and have particularly strong muscles to keep the jaw closed, so that an ordinary person would be able to close the mouth of a crocodile, but would be in serious trouble at the time of forcing it open. The bite of a Mississippi alligator was measured in 2003 at 9,450 N, and gharials have a much thinner and weaker snout than crocodiles and alligators.

Where do crocodiles live?

Crocodiles mostly inhabit in the contours of lakes, ponds, rivers and even in salt water, depending on the species, since without being amphibians, they are animals perfectly adapted for swimming. They tend to prefer the lowlands of the intertropical climate zone in America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

For their part, the gharials are exclusive to Southeast Asia, while the alligators are unique to the American continent.

What do crocodiles eat?

crocodile feeding
Crocodile teeth can hold prey, but cannot chew.

Crocodiles are omnivores, but show a marked preference for a carnivorous diet, since they are formidable predators.

Whether they hunt alone or come together to cooperatively deal with a large prey, they usually devour the entire victim or tear off large pieces that they devour without chewing, and that is why once their hunger is satisfied they must lie down on the ground to undertake a slow and laborious process of digestion. Some species can even store carcasses underwater for later consumption.

How do crocodiles reproduce?

crocodile reproduction
Female crocodiles tend to care for their young until maturity.

Crocodiles reproduce sexually, oviparously. Dominant males usually hoard available females for themselves, which once fertilized lay their eggs in specially built nests on the river bank, in holes in the ground or mounds of vegetation, sand or earth. The eggs, between ten and fifty per clutch, incubate for two or three months and in the end they hatch, releasing one young per egg.

Unlike other species of reptiles, female crocodiles tend to take care of their young until maturity, and some species even raise them together, in a kind of nursery under the care of some of the mothers.

How long do crocodiles live?

In their natural habitat, crocodiles face high infant mortality, victims of other predators, but as they mature they quickly occupy the top of the food chain. Depending on size and species, they have few care rivals, so they can live between 35 and 75 years.

The largest crocodiles in the world

largest marine crocodile
The marine crocodile can weigh between 480 and 1500 kg.

The most voluminous species of crocodiles known are:

  • The marine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). It is the largest living reptile on the planet and the largest crocodile in existence, a typical inhabitant of Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Accustomed to sea water, they measure on average between 4.3 and 7 meters long, and can weigh between 480 and 1500 kg.
  • The Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). The largest of the four species of crocodiles in Africa, and one of the largest in the world, it has an average size of between 5 and 6 meters long, and between 225 and 730 kg in weight. Bright olive green, it inhabits the Nile regions, as its name indicates, but also the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and the island of Madagascar, exclusively in freshwater deposits.
  • The Orinoco alligator (Crocodylus intermedius). An endemic crocodile species of the Orinoco river basin in Venezuela, which is in a critical state of conservation, it is a super predator with an omnivorous diet, considered the largest predator in Latin America. Although specimens of 6 and up to 7 meters long have been obtained, on average they rarely exceed 5 meters and 450 kg in weight.
  • The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). The most common species in the entire American continent, with presence from the state of Florida (USA) and the Gulf of Mexico, to the north of Peru and the south of Ecuador, it is typical of a warm climate and fresh water, and on average its Adult specimens range between 3 and 4 meters in length, exceptionally being able to reach 6 meters and 500 kg in weight.