The American crocodile, known scientifically as crocodylus acutus, is a modern-day dinosaur. With a length of 6 meters (almost 20 feet) and weight around 882-1102 pounds (400-500 kg) on average, its easy to see why. There have even been unconfirmed reports of American crocodiles 7 meters (23 feet) out there, and even some larger adults can weigh 2204.6 pounds (1000 kg). Some are grey-green while others are olive-green, but both have long slender snouts. They usually live to be 45 years old, but some have been known to live up to 70.
Most American crocodiles are found in southern Mexico, northern South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. There is a small population however, that can be found in southern Florida. They prefer the brackish or fresh water of mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, and river estuaries. Ponds, lakes, creeks, and canals also provide a suitable habitat for the American crocodile.
An American crocodile will eat a variety of creatures such as birds, fish, small mammals, frogs, crabs, snails, and occasionally carrion. They wait motionless in the water for their prey and strike when they get too close. They will then proceed to drown their victim using a move known as a “death roll”. They have even been known to regurgitate bits of food in order to attract fish. They will also swallow stones to help with digestion of food as well as buoyancy control in the water. Their have been rare occurrences of American crocodiles attacking humans, however, most of the time they avoid people altogether.
Mating season for the American crocodile occurs from January to February. The female will first grab the male’s attention by using audible, olfactory, visual, and tactile enticements. She will then commence with courtship displays. However, before mating can begin, she must first calm the male down as she has trespassed on his territory. After mating takes place, the female will build a nest out of loose dirt in a mound near the water’s edge in order to lay her eggs come April or May. She will lay anywhere from 35-50 eggs and bury them. She will protect the eggs as best she can, but American crocodiles are easily frightened from their nests. After 2-3 months, the babies hatch from the eggs. The mother will carry her newborns to the water, but then leaves them to survive on their own.
American Crocodiles are an endangered species. Outside of the United States, survey data for these reptiles is poor or nonexistent. From hunting to habitat loss, their population is waning. Although there are laws to protect them, most countries do not provide enough enforcement to make a big difference. The American crocodile is a spectacular modern-day dinosaur that deserves our respect and protection. They help keep fish populations in check and it would be tragic if they were to disappear from the Earth completely.
Defenders of Wildlife