One of the families of reptiles that for millions of years have populated and remain on Earth today are the crocodiles (Family Crocodylidae). They appeared during the Eocene period, more than 50 million years ago, and like all reptiles, they are phylogenetically (according to their evolutionary biological history), related to birds. Scientifically, the common term “crocodile” refers exclusively to species of the Family Crocodylidae. However, other semi-aquatic predatory reptiles, such as alligators, alligators or gharials, are still generally called crocodiles.
Where does the crocodile live? That eats? How does it reproduce? These are just some of the more common unknowns about “true crocodiles.
Where the crocodile lives: its habitat according to species
We know that we can find crocodiles almost on five continents, as they are one of the most feared predators both in America and Africa, as well as in Asia and Australia (Oceania). But what exactly is the crocodile’s habitat? What environmental requirements do you need for your survival?
Without a doubt, the most limiting factor for crocodiles to develop all their vital functions is that they are found in semi-aquatic habitats , preferably in areas of tropical regions. In this way, crocodiles inhabit both freshwater ecosystems (rivers, lakes, wetlands and any other type of natural water basin), as well as in ecosystems where there is brackish water (estuaries or mangroves ).
Let’s get to know some of the crocodile species that inhabit these ecosystems more closely :
Crocodiles of Africa
- Dwarf crocodile
- West African or desert crocodile
- Cocodrilo hociquifino africano
- Cocodrilo marino
- Marsh crocodile
- Siamese crocodile
- Australian freshwater crocodile
Crocodiles of America
- Cuban crocodile
- Mexican crocodile
- American crocodile
- Orinoco crocodile
The different species of crocodiles share a series of physiological and behavioral characteristics, among which are:
- They have very heavy bodies and a thick and dry skin , with a scaly and hard morphology, which gives them great resistance and robustness.
- They are very long-lived animals that can live up to fifty or eighty years.
- All are excellent swimmers during the time they are submerged in the water, preferably at night.
- They have a great capacity to remain immobile , waiting to stalk their prey at the most opportune moment or simply to enjoy the hours of sunshine during the day.
- The opening of their huge jaws allows them to regulate their body temperature and adapt to the ambient temperature.
- Another curious fact about their jaws is that they have large and powerful muscles for their closure, since they are their tool to catch their prey, but their muscles responsible for opening are not barely developed compared to those for closing.
- They are able to camouflage themselves with the environment in which they are, whether on rocks, ground or even in bushes. This is used as a predatory technique. Here you can learn more about these and 20+ other animals that camouflage themselves .
- Regarding how crocodiles move, it is possible to differentiate between when they do it in the aquatic environment that they do swimming and using their legs and tail for impulse and direction, or when they do it in terrestrial ecosystems, in which they advance with their short limbs, while, most of the time, they drag their stomachs on the ground. When they have to travel long distances, they use their tail, lift their body slightly off the ground and reach 18 km / h in the race.
- By having their nostrils and eyes on the top of their heads, they are able to breathe and see, while the rest of their body remains submerged in the water.
How crocodiles reproduce
The reproduction of crocodiles , being reptiles, is oviparous . Males and females mate, carrying out internal fertilization. When it is time to lay the eggs, the females bury them, while building nests using twigs and sticks.
But the most surprising thing about the reproduction process of crocodiles, and of other reptiles, is that the temperature directly influences the determination of the sex of the future crocodiles that will be born, a phenomenon that is known as ” temperature-dependent sex determination ” ( SDT). In this way, if the eggs are incubated at an approximate temperature of 33 ºC, the individuals that will hatch the egg will be males, while if the incubation temperature was slightly lower (about 30 ºC), female crocodiles will be born.
What crocodiles eat
Worldwide known as one of the most feared predators in the animal kingdom, adult crocodiles preferably feed on live prey that they hunt with their gigantic and powerful jaws . Its diet includes a wide variety of animals from all groups (mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, other reptiles, and even invertebrates). Each species of crocodile will feed in greater quantity on those prey that predominate in its natural habitat.
Once the hard and sometimes long waiting moment for the exact moment of the attack is over, the crocodile brutally gobbles up the prey, grabbing it with its powerful jaws and driving its sharp teeth into them. On numerous occasions, when they are in terrestrial areas, crocodiles drag the prey towards the water, shaking it and tearing it with their teeth to be able to cut and ingest it, since they are unable to chew. The crocodile bite is undoubtedly the most powerful in the entire animal kingdom, using about 1,800 kilos of force at the time of attack on the prey. Young crocodiles, on the other hand, usually feed exclusively on crabs, frogs and insects.