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Overview

Brief Summary

Crocodilians are members of the taxon Crocodilia and include the crocodiles, alligators, gavials, and caimans. With some possible exceptions, crocodilians are more closely related to birds than to any other living reptile.

Crocodilians are large reptiles with powerful limbs and tails and heavy plates of bone (osteoderms) beneath the skin. All crocodilian species have webbed feet, a transparent membrane drawn across the eye underwater, nostrils at the top of the snout, and other adaptations for an aquatic lifestyle. Crocodilians also have well-developed senses of smell, sight, and hearing. Of the 23 crocodilian species that exist in the world, the American crocodile and the American alligator are native to the United States. A third species, the common caiman, is an introduced species in Florida.

  • Britton, Adam. "World Countries Containing Crocodilians." Species Distribution Maps. Crocodilian Species List. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/csl-maps.htm (Accessed: 2007)
  • Pough, Harvey F., Robin M. Andrews, John E. Cadle, Martha L. Crump, Alan H. Savitzky, and Kentwood D. Wells. Herpetology. 3rd Ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004.
  • Uetz, Peter. "Family Crocodylidae (Crocodiles and Relatives)." The Reptile Database. http://www.tigr.org/reptiles/families/Crocodylidae.html. Accessed June 24, 2008.
  • Uetz, Peter. "How Many Species?" The Reptile Database. http://www.reptile-database.org. Accessed June 24, 2008.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Source: Animal Diversity Web

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Ecology

Associations

Known predators

Crocodilia (crocodile) is prey of:
Homo sapiens

Based on studies in:
Ethiopia, Lake Abaya (Lake or pond)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. Riedel, Der Margheritensee (Sudabessinien) - Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Abessinischen Graben-Seen, Arch. Hydrobiol. 58(4):435-466, from p. 457 (1962).
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Known prey organisms

Crocodilia (crocodile) preys on:
Tilapia zillii
Barbus
Actinopterygii
Aves

Based on studies in:
Ethiopia, Lake Abaya (Lake or pond)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. Riedel, Der Margheritensee (Sudabessinien) - Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Abessinischen Graben-Seen, Arch. Hydrobiol. 58(4):435-466, from p. 457 (1962).
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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Skin prevents water loss: crocodiles
 

The skin of crocodiles and alligators protects against water loss via bony scales called 'scutes.'

   
  "Crocodiles and alligators have rather different scales from those of other reptiles. Called 'scutes', they are bony and quite massive, but are not fused together joined to the underlying skeleton, so flexible fast movement is still possible. Each scute develops on its own, and is replaced by layers from below. The scutes are particularly massive on the back, perhaps because this is the area most exposed to the sun and most at risk of drying out…where the scutes are largest, the area of less waterproof skin between is smallest, so large scutes provide a good seal against water loss. Areas of small scutes occur on the sides and around the shoulders and hips, where greater flexibility is needed during movement." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:93)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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