Crocodiles are large reptiles that live in water. They are modern-day relatives of dinosaurs. This page can help you to learn about these living fossils.
How can you tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
This American Crocodlile has a V-shaped snout
- Crocs have long, narrow V-shaped snouts;
- Alligators have rounded U-shaped snouts.
The 4th tooth of the crocodile sticks out when its mouth is closed.
- When crocs close their mouth, some teeth are still visible.
- When alligators close theirs, all teeth are hidden.
- Crocodiles at birth are around 20 cm (8 inches) long - not much longer than your feet!
Saltwater crocodile: 4.3- 5.2m
Nile crocodile: 4.2m
American crocodile: 4.1- 4.8 m
- Depending on the species (there are 23 species!), adults may vary in size from about 1m to 7m, and can weigh more than 1.5 tons or over 3,000 pounds.
- The largest recorded crocodile was 7 meters (23 feet) long See a video of Gustav, the Giant Crocodile of Burundi (9 minutes; warning: fascinating, but may be scary; parental guidance recommended; contains some subtitles)
Nile crocodile, getting its teeth cleaned by a bird (plover).
- Crocodiles are very fast over short distances, even out of water.
- The land speed record for a crocodile is 17 kilometres per hour (10.6 mph), by a galloping Australian freshwater crocodile.
- Whilst some species can gallop, the fastest way for many croc species is a "belly run". They move like a snake, wiggle their legs. and their tail whips back and forth. By belly-running, crocs can reach speeds of around 10 or 11 kilometres an hour (around 7 mph), or faster if they're sliding down muddy riverbanks.
- A human can outrun a crocodile and crocodiles being ambush predators they will not pursue you for very long.
- Crocs have extremely powerful jaws.
- Crocodiles cannot chew. They can only tear and swallow.
- Crocodiles have 64 teeth, but they are constantly being replaced. A crocodile can go through over 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
- Each tooth is hollow, with new ones growing inside the old ones. The new tooth appears once an old one is lost.
- Crocodiles like warm environments. They do not like cold water!
- Crocodiles are found in tropical areas, such as swamps and everglades of the southeastern U.S., Central and South America, Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Borneo.
Crocodiles mostly live in the pink, tropical zone.
Crocodiles wait... and watch. Until they are ready to attack.
- Crocodiles are 'ambush hunters'. They wait for fish or land animals to come close, then rush out to attack. They grab their prey with their strong jaws, drag it into the water, then they roll over and over ('death roll'). This confuses the prey and eventually it drowns. Then the crocodile begins to eat.
- Crocodiles mostly eat fish, other reptiles, and mammals, and sometimes other water creatures such as mollusks and crustaceans.
- Stones are often found in the stomachs of adult crocodiles. Why?
- The stones may help the crocodiles digest their food.
- The stones may help the crocodiles to balance in the water (see ballast).
- Crocodiles digest everything they eat, including bones and shells, because their stomachs are so acidic.
- Female crocodiles lay eggs (about 9 to 90 eggs) and bury them in the sand.
- Little crocs in some species make chirping sounds in their eggs when they are about to hatch. This tells the mother croc to dig them out of the sand nest.
- Listen to the call of a baby crocodile (3 seconds).
- Mother crocs of some species carry the hatchlings to the water's edge in her mouth, then watch over them until they are able to look after themselves.
- Video of Nile crocodiles being born and starting their life (National Geographic; 3 minutes)
- 99% of the crocodile offspring are eaten in the first year of life by large fish, lizards, birds, and ... adult crocodiles.
- Adult crocodiles live to around 50 to 60 years; however, some have lived as long as 130 years!