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  • Crocodilians: Order Crocodilia

    • Includes: caimans, gharials, crocodiles, and alligators

    • Number of Species: 23

    • Range: Tropics, subtropics and slightly into temperate zone

    • Habitat: semiaquatic

    • Characteristics

      • All crocodilians have an elongated body, and a short, strong neck.

      • They also have short, but powerful limbs and a thick laterally compressed tail which they use as their propeller in the water.

      • They have an elongated, robust, well-reinforced skull and massive jaw musculature for holding and crushing prey.

      • Bony plates (osteoderms) cover much of their neck, body, and tail.

      • Crocodilians are more closely related to birds (also considered reptiles) than other groups of reptiles.  

      • They are the only non-avian reptiles with true four-chambered hearts.

      • A complete secondary palate is also another trait of crocodilians which allows them to have a mouth full of water and breath at the same time.

      • Crocodilians are considered the smartest of all reptiles as they are the only ones that have a true cerebral cortex, which allows them to do critical thinking.

    • Behavior

      • Many of them are ambush predators and wait until potential prey gets within striking distance to strike.

      • If prey is too large to swallow in one gulp they will tear off pieces of flesh and bone using their famous death roll. 

      • They are also scavengers, thereby helping to manage the spread of diseases from dead animals to live ones.

      • All crocodilians are semiaquatic and spend much of their time in water, but also bask regularly on the shoreline to heat up.

    • Senses

      • Crocodilians are very sensitive to sound and are relatively vocal (American alligators are the most vocal of all species) compared to other species of reptiles.

      • Eye sight is relatively good which is accompanied by a strong sense of smell to help find carrion.

    • Reproduction

      •  All crocodilians lay eggs (oviparous).

      • Most of them provide extensive parental care which is uncommon among reptiles.

      • The sex of their offspring is dependent on the temperature of nest. Low nest temperatures produce females and high nest temperatures produce males.

    • Unique Threats:

      • Hunting for meat and skins used to make clothing and accessories.

    • Fun facts:

      • Crocodilians have remained mostly unchanged for 200 million years

      • The largest of all reptiles is found in this group. The saltwater crocodiles can weigh over 1,000 kg and reach lengths over 20 feet long.

      • The only true man-eaters are the Nile and saltwater crocodiles. Alligator are less aggressive and rarely eat people (less than once a year) in the United States which is impressive considering that there are millions of alligators spread out across the Southeastern United States.

    • Information/ Care Sheets

      • American Alligator

      • Dwarf Caiman

Nile Crocodile

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