Crocodile, the largest of living reptiles, found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Crocodiles live near swamps and marshes. They spend much of their time basking in the sun.
There are 12 species of crocodiles. The American crocodile, the only species found in the United States, lives in southern Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. Most crocodiles are shy; however, the Nile crocodile of Africa and the saltwater crocodile of southeastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands are dangerous, and unprovoked attacks on humans are common. Crocodiles are hunted for their meat, their skin (which is made into leather), and their musk (which is used in perfumes). Because of hunting and destruction of their habitat most crocodile species are endangered. Some species of crocodiles are preyed upon by lions, leopards, and tigers.
The crocodile has a heavy tail, short legs, and webbed hind feet.
Yes, one kind of crocodile does live in North America. American crocodiles live on islands in the Caribbean (kar uh BEE uhn) and along the coast of Central America. Some also live in the southernmost part of Florida.
American crocodiles can grow to be very large, as large as 20 feet (6.1 meters). But most of these crocodiles are smaller than American alligators.
American crocodiles spend their days resting in sheltered waters, among thick plants, or in their dens. They come out at night to feed. They build nests by digging holes in the sand or in a riverbank. Sometimes, if there is no place to dig, American crocodiles build mound nests.
Gavial, or Gharial, a large reptile related to the crocodile. The Indian gavial is found near rivers in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The male reaches a length of 18 feet (5.5 m); the female, a length of 13 feet (4 m). During the mating season, the male attracts a female by inflating a knob at the end of his snout. After mating, the female lays 30 to 40 eggs in a flask-shaped hole in the ground. The false gavial is a smaller, related species found in Indonesia and Malaysia. Both species are endangered due to indiscriminate hunting.
They are gavials, which are also known as gharials (GAHR ee uhlz). A gavial looks like a crocodile. But it has a very long and very narrow snout. This snout sets the gavial apart from other crocodilians. A male gavial has a round growth at the end of his nose that makes him look rather “creepy.”
A gavial’s narrow jaws are not strong enough to catch large animals. But they are designed to catch fish. A narrow snout can snap shut quickly. And sharp teeth easily hold onto wiggling, slippery fish.
Gavials live in river habitats in India. They spend almost all their time in the water. When they do come on land to bask or to nest, they cannot walk as other crocodilians do. They don’t have the leg muscles needed to stand. So gavials must belly slide or swim wherever they want to go.
The false gavial is a crocodilian with a long, narrow snout. But little else is known about it. Scientists are not even sure if the false gavial is a member of the gavial family or the crocodile family.
False gavials live in freshwater habitats. They often swim in slow-moving waters that are thick with plants and other vegetation. And false gavials eat fish as well as small mammals.
Like many crocodilians, false gavials build mound nests. But they do not take care of their hatchlings. For this reason, very few false gavial hatchlings survive.
The Indian gavial is Gavialis gangeticus of the family Gavialidae. The false gavial is Tomistoma schlegelii of the family Crocodylidae.
Caiman, a four-legged reptile of the alligator family. Caimans closely resemble alligators in appearance, with long, thick, tapering tails and elongated snouts. Caimans are generally somewhat smaller, averaging about four to six feet (1.2 to 1.8m) in length. Their bodies are covered with bony plates and are blackish or brownish with various lighter markings. Females lay 20 to 30 eggs in a mound-shaped nest.
Caimans are native to tropical regions of Central and South America, where they live along rivers, streams, and lakes. Spectacled caimans are also found in southern Florida. Once sold as pets there, many were released into the wild when they became too large to keep. The black caiman, which is the largest caiman and also one of South America’s largest animals, grows to a length of 20 feet (6 m). It is endangered because of destruction of its habitat.
Caimans are of the genera Caiman, Melanosuchus, or Paleosuchus of the family Alligatoridae. The spectacled caiman is Caiman crocodilus; the black caiman, Melanosuchus niger.
Why Are Black Caimans So Unusual?
Black caimans are the largest caimans. They can grow to be as large as American alligators. But what makes them unusual is that they don’t lose their “baby stripes.”
Most crocodilian hatchlings have markings that help them blend into their surroundings. American alligator hatchlings have yellow stripes to help them hide in grasses along the shore. These stripes fade over time. But the markings on black caimans do not fade.
Black caiman hatchlings have gray heads and black bodies that are marked with rows of white dots. As the hatchlings grow, their gray heads turn brown. But their stripes and dots never fade away entirely.
Which Caiman Likes the Rain Forest?
The Schneider’s (SCHNY duhrz) dwarf caiman lives in the dense rain forest of South America. It spends much of its time on the forest floor. The streams in its habitat are shallow and rocky. The water may not even cover this caiman. Schneider’s dwarf caimans are small. Males grow to a length of only 5 1/2 feet (1.7 meters). Like other crocodilians, these caimans have many sharp scutes, or scales, that stick out. But their scutes are sharper than most. Dwarf caimans also have bony tails that are stiffer than other crocodilian tails. This extra body armor helps protect the caimans from the sharp rocks found in the rain forest streams.
Schneider’s dwarf caimans rarely bask. Instead, they spend much of the day lying in hollow logs or under fallen leaves. They sometimes build their nests beside termite mounds. The heat from the termite mounds helps warm the nest.
Which Is the Smallest Crocodilian?
The smallest crocodilian of them all is Cuvier’s (KYOO vee ayz) dwarf caiman. When it is an adult, it is less than 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length. Like the Schneider’s dwarf caiman, it avoids open areas. But it also avoids the dense forest. Cuvier’s dwarf caimans prefer flooded areas near forests. And they are often found in swift-flowing waters or near waterfalls.
Cuvier’s dwarf caimans are heavily armored. They have thick bony plates along their backs and sides. They also have short snouts and high, smooth foreheads. They are the only crocodilians to have sloping foreheads. These small caimans spend much of the day in their burrows.