How are alligators born
What do crocodiles look like?
Crocodiles are lizards and one of the oldest groups of animals: They have existed for around 230 million years. They have changed little to this day.
The animals have a flat, long body and four legs. The long tail is flattened on the side and drives the animal when swimming, it also serves as an oar.
In all crocodiles, the eyes are very high on the head, the nostrils are far in front of the snout.
In its mouth there are 60 to 70 sharp, conical teeth that keep falling out and are replaced with new ones for a lifetime. The largest teeth are called fangs or fangs.
With the alligators no teeth can be seen when the mouth is closed, with the real crocodiles you can see the fourth lower tooth, which lies in the jaw pit.
In the gavials, the foremost of the very long, thin teeth stand forward so that they can be seen even when the mouth is closed.
The skin of the crocodile is transformed into a scale armor, which consists of horn plates and underlying ossified plates. That is why crocodiles are also called armored lizards.
The front legs have five toes, but only three have claws.
The hind legs have four toes with webbed feet between them.
Where do crocodiles live?
Because crocodiles are cold-blooded animals, i.e. their body temperature depends on the environment, almost all species are found in tropical regions around the globe. Exceptions are the Mississippi alligator and the China alligator, which live in subtropical and temperate zones.
Crocodiles are adapted to an amphibious way of life. That means they can live both in water and on land.
Most of the time they spend in the water, they come on land to rest and sunbathe.
Crocodiles are mostly freshwater inhabitants, so they live in lakes and rivers. From time to time they can also be found in river mouths in brackish water.
The only exception is the Australian estuarine crocodile: it can also survive in the salt water of the oceans.
What types of crocodiles are there?
The order of the crocodiles consists of three families: the gavials, the real crocodiles and the alligators, to which the caimans also belong.
The three groups with over 20 species differ mainly in the characteristics of their head: The Gaviale have a very long, thin snout. The real crocodiles have jaw pits in which the largest tooth of the lower jaw can be found when the mouth is closed. And the alligators stand out because of their wider snout.
In addition, the different crocodile species are very different in size: Depending on the species, they measure between 120 centimeters and up to nine meters. The West African crocodile is one of the smaller ones, at around 180 centimeters, and the saltwater crocodile, which can be seven to nine meters long, is one of the largest.
How old do crocodiles get?
Depending on the species, crocodiles get very old: they can live for 80 to 100 years.
How do crocodiles live?
Crocodiles are perfectly adapted to a life in the water: their eyes are so high on the head that they can also observe what is going on above the surface in the water.
Their nostrils are connected to the throat by ducts, so all they have to do is stick the tip of their snouts out of the water to breathe.
In addition, the throat is closed with a special flap when diving, so that the animals do not drown in the water even with their mouths open.
Crocodiles look clumsy on land, but with their short legs they can run pretty fast.
Of the many crocodile species, only a few are dangerous to humans:
These include the Nile crocodile and the saltwater crocodile from Australia.
But crocodiles usually avoid people and withdraw from them. They attack only when they feel threatened.
It is known that animals are quite intelligent: they have small but highly developed brains.
Little is known about the social life of crocodiles. Often many animals lie together when sunbathing - but mostly they are more solitary.
Sometimes crocodiles hunt together to kill very large prey.
Friends and enemies of the crocodile
Adult crocodiles have no enemies in nature. However, young crocodiles often fall prey to larger birds, monitor lizards or even other crocodiles.
However, crocodiles were and are hunted by humans both for their skin, which is made into valuable leather, and for their meat.
Many species, such as the Mississippi alligator, were endangered by hunting around 1900. In 1944 the animals were protected during the breeding season so that the populations could recover.
How do crocodiles reproduce?
Crocodiles, like all lizards, lay eggs. The females lay between 20 and 40, sometimes 80 eggs in nests made of rotting plant material. During the rotting process, heat is generated - like in a compost heap - which is necessary for the eggs to hatch. Such nests are called hill nests because of their shape.
However, some crocodile species dig pits in the ground in which they lay their eggs and then cover them with plant debris. In some crocodile species, the females guard the nests. The newly hatched young then carefully carry them in their mouths to the water.
Whether a female or male crocodile baby hatches from an egg after 60 to 100 days depends on the temperature in the nest:
If the temperature is below 30 degrees Celsius, females develop in the eggs. If it is around 34 degrees Celsius, males are created.
How do crocodiles hunt?
Crocodiles are born hunters: they are very quick and dexterous.
They usually go hunting at night. Then they submerge in the water, lie still and wait for prey to emerge.
Thanks to special sensors in their jaws, they can feel the slightest movement of prey and then strike at lightning speed. However, you can also approach the bank noiselessly, jump out of the water and grab animals standing on the bank with their sharp teeth.
Because their jaw muscles are extremely powerful, the victims usually have no chance of escaping.
Then crocodiles drag their prey underwater so that it drowns.
Then they turn on their own axis to tear pieces out of their prey. Because they can only bite but not chew with their teeth, they devour the pieces of meat whole.
How do crocodiles communicate?
The crocodiles use very low sounds to communicate with their conspecifics, which we humans cannot or hardly hear.
What do crocodiles eat?
Wide-snouted crocodiles have a fairly varied diet. Crocodiles with long, narrow snouts, such as the gaviale, on the other hand, specialize in fishing.
Young crocodiles mainly hunt fish, frogs, insects and small mammals.
Often crocodiles also become cannibals: Young animals in particular are then eaten by their older conspecifics.
Crocodiles don't eat every day: It is estimated that very large animals only kill prey about once a week. So they only eat about 50 times a year. However, smaller crocodile species will eat much more often.
Crocodiles are mainly kept in zoos.
Smaller species are sometimes kept as pets - for example the relatively small crocodile. But this is only for professionals, because they are considered dangerous animals.
There are strict rules for keeping the animals, which are also checked by the authorities.
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