Crocodiles are large-sized reptiles that are at the top of predators, and crocodiles belong to the family of archosaurs, an ancient group of reptiles that also includes dinosaurs, and although the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, the semi-aquatic nature of crocodiles allowed them to survive successfully in their natural environments.
There are currently about 13 different species of crocodiles that live in fresh and saltwater environments throughout North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Crocodiles are omnivores, which means that they only eat meat, and prefer to feed on; Fish, birds, frogs, and crustaceans also eat small animals, such as; Rats and mice.
Crocodiles grab prey using their huge jaws, then crush and swallow it whole, they do not have the ability to chew or cut it into small pieces like other animals, and to aid digestion, crocodiles swallow small stones that enable them to grind food in their stomach, and thanks to their slow metabolism, crocodiles can survive Life for months without food.
Crocodile mating and breeding
Crocodiles reproduce sexually. Crocodiles court each other using changes in body shape, touch, vocalization, or chemical cues, and then the mating process occurs.
The female crocodile lays from 12 to 48 eggs each time, depending on its age, size and type, and one egg weighs between 50 to 160 grams, and it is mentioned that there are two types of nests for laying eggs; Some types of crocodiles dig a hole in the ground and lay eggs in it and then cover them with dirt again, while others build a heap of plant materials and soil, to lay eggs in it.
The incubation period of eggs lasts from 55 to 100 days, and the sex of the fetus is determined by the temperature of the egg during the first half of the incubation period, as eggs with colder and warmer temperatures produce females, while eggs with medium temperatures produce males, while both sexes produce Of the eggs whose temperatures are close to 31 degrees Celsius.
After two or three months of laying the eggs, the young are ready to hatch. The female removes dirt and debris from the eggs and helps the young to reach the water. She also usually stays close to her young and provides them with protection from predators from several weeks to months until they grow up and disperse.
Crocodiles are characterized by a set of physical and behavioral traits that distinguish them from other animals.
Characteristics of crocodiles
The following are the most important physical characteristics of crocodiles:
- Its body is covered with scales, where the scales consist of water-resistant armored plates that protect them from predators and prevent their bodies from drying out.
- Crocodile scales come in a variety of colors; Such as pale olive green, brownish green, gray, and black, thus crocodiles are able to camouflage in the surrounding water and vegetation.
- The shape of crocodiles is suitable for their amphibious life, their elongated body and long muscular tail is well suited for fast swimming, and the external nostrils, eyes and ear openings are located in the highest parts of the head in line with their breathing outside the water.
- Crocodiles have irregular outer edges of the jaws, and each jaw bears a row of conical teeth, where the number of crocodile teeth exceeds 100, which are constantly replaced, as new teeth grow from the bottom, forcing the old teeth to come out, and crocodiles have a thick tongue strongly attached to the floor of the mouth .
- Crocodiles have short but strong legs, and the hind legs are stronger than the front, the front feet have 5 toes and the hind feet only four, and they are fully or partially exposed.
- The upper part of the crocodile’s tail bears two crests with high triangular scales that gradually merge near the middle of the tail.
Behavioral traits of crocodiles
The following are the most important behavioral characteristics of crocodiles:
- Crocodiles spend a lot of time swimming as they are semi-aquatic reptiles.
- Like all reptiles, crocodiles are cold-blooded, so they have to spend time on the ground to warm their bodies during the hot hours of the day.
- Crocodiles are more slender in the water, as they use their powerful tails for propulsion.
Crocodiles have a set of very strong senses, which enable them to survive, and these senses include:
Crocodiles have eyes with long slit-shaped pupils, this pupil narrows in bright light and widens in the dark, which gives them the ability to control the amount of light entering the back wall of the eye, which means taking advantage of the small amount of light available at night to achieve the best vision.
Crocodiles have a strong sense of hearing, and unlike the ears of other modern reptiles, the ears of crocodiles have a movable outer membranous flap that protects the ears from water.
Crocodiles have a very developed sense of smell, as it is possible that this sense is activated in the egg before hatching.
touch and taste
Not much information is available about these two senses, but crocodiles enjoy petting each other with their mouths and touching their bodies during the mating season.
Benefits of crocodiles for the environment and humans
Although crocodiles are a great enemy to humans, they, like all creatures on this earth, have many benefits, including the following:
- Crocodiles have a ferocious digestive system that is immune to bacteria, viruses and microbes, and some ecologists believe that the extinction of crocodiles could disrupt ecological processes and destroy the ecosystem.
- It prevents fish and marine animals from overcrowding, thus degrading the ecosystem.
- Protects important water habitats against wildlife, and helps conserve marine life.
- They are bred commercially to make use of their hides in the manufacture of some products such as handbags and shoes, which are very expensive.
- Its meat is considered a delicacy in some countries. Crocodile meat is a traditional diet in; Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Africa, a delicacy in the West.