Crocodiles or crocodiles (order Crocodylia) are the largest reptiles that exist today. Among them are alligators, gharials, and true crocodiles. They are all semi-terrestrial animals and have an unmistakable body morphology. Due to their particular way of life and their powerful jaw, they have caused terror in all civilizations, although also much admiration.
Without a doubt, one of the most outstanding characteristics of these reptiles is their reproduction. Despite their fearsome appearance, female crocodiles are some of the best mothers in the animal kingdom and go to great lengths to ensure the survival of their young. In this AnimalWised article, we tell you how crocodiles reproduce, including their courtship, care of the young and many other curiosities.You may also be interested in: How are crocodiles born? Index
- Crocodile characteristics
- Where do crocodiles live?
- Crocodile reproduction
- Baby crocodile care
- Crocodile curiosities
Before knowing how crocodiles reproduce, it is essential that we know a series of characteristics that can give us some clues:
- They are amniotes: your embryo develops within a series of envelopes that contain a liquid medium. This allows the crocodile to reproduce out of the water, unlike in amphibians..
- Direct development: they lay eggs and do not present larvae, but the individuals that hatch are very similar to their parents, although with a very small size.
- Late maturity: the largest species (3-6 meters) reach sexual maturity around 10-15 years. From that moment on, they begin to reproduce. However, the smallest species (1-3 meters) can reach maturity at 4 years of age..
- Long reproductive life: crocodiles are very long-lived animals. The largest species can live up to 80 years, while the smallest usually live between 20 and 40 years. For this reason, the reproduction period is very long..
- Are sauropsids: they belong to the Sauropsida class, like birds and all the animals that we know as reptiles (lizards, turtles, snakes, etc.). By the animals they are related to, we can imagine how crocodiles reproduce.
- They are archosaurs: the ancestors of crocodiles appeared about 250 million years ago. Together with the dinosaurs, they form the clade Archosauria. The only archosaurs that survived the great Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction were some types of flying dinosaurs (birds) and the ancestors of crocodiles. Therefore, birds are the closest relatives of the order Crocodylia.
Where do crocodiles live?
Crocodiles have a tropical and subtropical distribution. They spread across the warm areas of all continents, except Antarctica. Therefore, they can be seen in South Asia, throughout Oceania, in almost all of Sub-Saharan Africa and in warm America, from the southern United States to the Amazon..
The crocodile habitat is the rivers, lakes, deltas, marshes, mangroves and swamps. The specific places they can inhabit depend on each family and even each species. Therefore, we recommend that you take a look at this other article on Where crocodiles live. However, if you want to know how crocodiles reproduce, ¡keep reading!
Crocodile reproduction occurs once a year. It takes place in the rainy season and begins with the defense of the territory. The males swim along the place they have chosen for their reproduction. As they do so, they show off some parts of their body, such as their head and tail. In addition, they emit articulate sounds, that is, vocalizations. If this display doesn't work, they can fight each other. When this occurs, they ram their heads and collide their jaws as they lift their bodies..
For a male, gaining a territory means keeping the females that live in it. Typically, the winner of the territory is the oldest and largest individual. Therefore, the animals that meet these characteristics are the ones that reproduce the most, being able to reach copulate with more than 15 females during a reproductive season. Therefore, crocodiles are polygamous animals.
However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Dominant males must court females. To do this, both approach, brush their snouts, rub their bodies, emit vocalizations, swim together and dive several times. If you both want it, copulation takes place underwater and can last 15 minutes.
Baby crocodile care
After copulation, the females defend the place where they are going to build their nest. Some types of crocodiles make mounds on the land closest to the water. Other crocodiles make holes in the ground in the typical shape of a nest. It is in these places where the females lay between 10 and 60 eggs, depending on the species and the size of the female. After laying, it is very common that they cover the nests with plants.
In most species of the order Crocodylia, females stay close to the nest to protect their eggs. After 2 or 3 months, depending on the temperature of the sand, the eggs hatch. It is then that some small crocodiles are born that their mother helps them out of the nest. Then, introduces them in his mouth and transports them to the water.
Baby crocodiles are very vulnerable, so it is common for their mother to take care of them until they can defend themselves. To do this, she always remains by their side and, sometimes, aligns with other mothers to defend the little ones together. In some species, the female digs another nest next to the water in order to protect the young..
If you want to know more about how crocodiles reproduce, we recommend this other article about Crocodile Incubation.
Now that we know how crocodiles reproduce, let's answer some of the most common questions about these animals. We leave you some curiosities of the crocodiles:
¿What is the name of the female crocodile?
The term "crocodile " is masculine, so we cannot use the determiner "the ", but we must always say "the crocodile ". The term "crocodile " is also not correct, as it does not exist. Therefore, when we refer to a female of this order of reptiles we must always say "the female crocodile ".
The same happens when a noun has a feminine gender. An example is the term "otter ". It is not correct to say "nutrio " or "the otter ", but we must say "the male otter ".
¿How crocodiles move?
Crocodiles are semi-aquatic animals that stay underwater for many hours. As we told you in the article about the feeding of the crocodile, they camouflage themselves on the shore waiting for their prey and they jump on them. But they are not always still, but crocodiles swim and dive with ease. For it, are propelled with the movement of its line and they use their legs as paddles.
They are also very agile on the ground. It is because they can placesr its legs in a more or less vertical position and walk lifting your body on them. However, due to their heavy size, they must spend a lot of time resting after a prolonged period of activity. They do it, normally, while they sunbathe in a group. This is how they increase the temperature of their body, since they are ectothermic animals.
¿What is the largest crocodile in the world? ¿And the smallest?
The largest crocodile ever caught was a specimen of Crocodylus porosus, the saltwater crocodile. This giant reptile measured 6.17 meters in length and weighed 1,076 kilograms. However, we must bear in mind that it is difficult to measure these animals, so there are probably other larger ones in the wild..
In front of the saltwater crocodiles, we have Osteolaemus tetraspi, known as the dwarf crocodile. These animals have an average size of 1.7 meters.
¿How Crocodiles Communicate?
Crocodiles are the most social reptiles that exist. The parental care that we have already mentioned is a good example of this. In order for them to take place, the mother and the young must communicate very well. For this reason, the little ones make constant vocalizations that attract the attention of their mother. Often these huge reptiles they live in groups more or less constant living in the same place.
Due to their life in society, crocodiles present a very diverse set of signals. Like all animals, they communicate through the secretion of hormones, although what stands out most are their vocalizations and sounds. Depending on the characteristics of the sound, they cause one action or another in the other individuals of their species. In addition, they communicate through postures, such as tail flicking or lifting the muzzle..