Crocodiles and alligators – Modern Dinosaurs
Crocodiles and alligators are lizardlike animals, related to dinosaurs, the giant reptiles of the past. They are the largest living members of reptiles. Alligators and crocodiles look a lot alike, but alligators have a broad flat head with a rounded snout. Most crocodiles have a narrow, pointed snout. Crocodiles are larger than alligators. When an alligator closes its mouth, none of its bottom teeth show. Many large teeth stick out of both the top and bottom jaw of a crocodile’s closed mouth.
Large adults can stay underwater for over an hour without breathing. Alligators and crocodiles often float with only their eyes and noses showing.
They eat mostly fish, small mammals, and birds. Sometimes they may kill deer or cattle.
Alligators and crocodiles are becoming extinct. They are killed for sport or for their skins, which are used to make purses, shoes, and belts.
Alligators live along the edges of swamps, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. There are two species of alligator. The American alligator lives in the southeastern United States. The Chinese alligator lives in the Yangtze River region in China.
Young American alligators are black with yellow stripes on the tail. The adults are brownish.
The Chinese alligator is blackish with faint yellowish markings.
The female builds a nest of mud and grass. She lays 20 to 60 white eggs in the nest. The eggs hatch after about 65 days. The young alligators live with their mother for as long as a year.
Crocodiles live in swamps, lakes, and rivers in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.
Crocodiles eat many poisonous water snakes, and during times of drought, they dig water holes, thus providing water, food, and habitat for fish, birds, and other creatures.
Crocodiles do not take care of their young once they hatch.
There are saltwater crocodiles living in northern Australia and Southeast Asia. Australians call their crocodiles ‘salties’.
Crocodilians are sometimes used to entertain people, and some species are kept as pets. The Romans, for example, sometimes displayed Nile crocodiles in their circuses.
The black caiman is the largest species of crocodile in the Western Hemisphere. The crocodile eats a variety of small animals (especially rodents) and fish (particularly catfish and piranha). It also preys on small deer, cattle, and other caiman. The female builds a mound nest which measures 1.5 meters wide and 0.8 meter high. It lays a clutch of 30 to 60 eggs. They hatch after 5 to 6 weeks.
The black caiman lives throughout the Amazon Basin.