Scientific Name: Crocodylus acutus
An American Crocodile exiting the water in Mexico. By Tomás Castelazo
The American Crocodile is a reptile that lives in North, Central, and South America. Although crocodiles are found in some of the same areas as alligators, crocodiles live in different habitats. Alligators need fresh water to survive, while crocodiles have adapted to salt water environments. The American Crocodile has a special gland in its mouth that filters out extra salt and allows it to survive in marshes and swamps with salty water.
Crocodiles have long, powerful tails that they use to push themselves through the water. They use their legs to help them turn or slow down. Crocodiles’ short legs make them slow travelers on land, but faster and more streamlined in the water. Crocodiles can move at speeds of about 3 miles per hour on land and 12 miles per hour in the water.
American crocodiles are carnivores, which means they eat meat. They eat frogs, fish, turtles, insects, birds, and almost any animal they can catch that lives in or visits the water where they live. A crocodile can eat up to one half of its body weight in one meal, and crocodiles have been known to live for up to one year without a meal. They achieve this by not moving around very much and minimizing the amount of energy that they use.
After a mother crocodile has mated and laid her eggs, she builds a nest to protect the eggs and keep them warm. Scientists studying crocodile nests have discovered that the temperature of the nest affects how many girls and boys are born. If the nest is cooler than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, more female crocodiles will hatch. If the nest is warmer than 93 degrees Fahrenheit, more male crocodiles will hatch. When baby crocodiles hatch from their eggs, they are about the size of a human hand.
The green areas of this map of North and South America show the range of the American Crocodile. By Achim Raschka
An American Crocodile in a national wildlife refuge in Florida opens its mouth to wait for prey or to help itself stay cool. By Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The above link plus:
Gish, Melissa. Crocodiles. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2010.
Morgan, Sally, Amazing Animal Hunters: Alligators and Crocodiles. Mankato, MN: Amicus, 2011.