The saltwater crocodile is a HUGE reptile living in Southeast Asia, Australia, and many islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is called the saltwater crocodile because it can live in saltwater. Because it can also live in freshwater also, this croc is euryhaline just like the animal two weeks ago is. These reptiles are sometimes called estuarine crocodiles, Indo-pacific crocodiles, or just salties. Being able to live in saltwater gives these crocodiles the ability to swim long distances in the ocean. This is probably part of the reason they are spread throughout so many islands. As with all reptiles, the saltwater crocodile is cold-blooded, meaning it needs to bask in the sun in order to warm up.
Saltwater crocodiles are the largest known reptiles in the world and therefore the largest known crocodilians. Males are larger than females, and large ones can be up to twice the size of their mates. While females rarely grow larger than a still-big ten feet (3 m), males can grow up to twenty-three feet (7 m) from snout tip to tail tip. The largest males may weigh up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg). This is just 500 pounds less than a Honda Civic, the United State’s most popular car!
The saltwater crocodile, like almost all other reptiles, is carnivorous. Some of their main prey include water buffalo, monkeys, wild pigs, and even sharks! Other food may include birds and reptiles. In places where this crocodile’s range overlaps with the Australian freshwater crocodile’s range, the former may eat the latter. In order to catch animals while they are near land, saltwater crocodiles will submerge themselves almost completely in water. A flap of skin in the throat keeps water from coming into the crocodile’s throat. When potential prey comes near the crocodile, the predator will lunge out of the water and either drown the unfortunate prey or shake it to death. Sometimes stones may be swallowed in order to help aid with digestion.
You may wonder how these crocodiles are able to catch birds. The answer is shown in the picture shown below. These reptiles will lie submerged in the water as described before. They can then use their powerful tail muscles to propel them out of the water, into the air, and right up to the bird.
Saltwater crocodiles breed during the wet season, which starts around September and October. Large males will patrol their territory, chasing off any males that venture into a territory that is already taken. In between November and March, the females lay from forty to ninety eggs inside a mound. These mounds are made of mud and vegetation, and they can be up to six feet (183 cm) long and two feet (61 cm) wide. These nests will be placed (hopefully) above the flood-line of the nearby water body, because a lot of rain will fall in the coming wet season. Sometimes these nests are placed inside the flood-line, and the eggs will get flooded, killing the young. The hatchling’s gender is determined by the temperature at which they are incubated. Lower temperatures produce mostly females, while higher temperatures produce mainly males.
The female crocodiles guard the nest during the eighty to ninety-eight day gestation period. All of the young hatch at once, and they emit a high pitched call that signals the mother to excavate them from their mound. After hatching, the young saltwater crocodiles are about one foot (30 cm) long. The females will carry them in her mouth to the nearest body of water, and she will stay with them for several months. Despite all of this protection, an estimated only one percent of the young survive until maturity. This is on average less than one per clutch! At such a small size, the young have many predators even including adult saltwater crocodiles.
At about the age of eight months, the young are independent, and go their own ways. They start becoming territorial at around the age of two and a half years. Female saltwater crocodiles start mating at ages twelve to fourteen, while males normally wait another three or four years. As with most other crocodilians, saltwater crocs are long-lived. They are estimated to live up to sixty-five or even one hundred years!
Status and threats
The IUCN redlist says that these animals are least concern. Despite this good rating, saltwater crocodiles have many threats. Humans hunt saltwater crocodiles for their skin, meat, and eggs. In fact, the skin of the saltwater crocodile is the most valuable skin of any crocodilian! During the twentieth century, hunting of these animals was unregulated, and their population in northern Australia reduced ninety-five percent!
Habitat loss is another threat to salties. Water buffalo sometimes trample the nesting places of these animals, but programs to eradicate these threatening buffalo have decreased this threat. A large hindrance in saltwater crocodile conservation is the fact that these animals are dangerous. Although injuries and deaths from these crocs are rare, they are thought to be the most dangerous crocodilian, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
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- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Saltwater crocodile – Public domain
- Saltwater crocodile range map – Froggydarb
- Saltwater crocodile jumping – Public domain
- Mystery animal – JJ Harrison