Environment

Saltwater Crocodile Facts: Animals of Oceania

The largest reptile and the biggest terrestrial, riparian predator alive today, these crocodiles are doubtlessly a force to be reckoned with.

5. Physical Description

The saltwater crocodile is not only the largest reptile in the world today, but also the largest living terrestrial and riparian predator. Male saltwater crocodiles are much larger than their female counterparts. While the former weighs from 880 to 2,200 pounds and is between 14 and 17 feet in length when fully grown, the latter only weighs 330 pounds on average, and typically only grows to as long as 9.8 feet. With overall white or yellow skin and a dark tail, the saltwater crocodile has a wide body, a huge head, a long muzzle, and oval-shaped scales. The eyes and nostrils are on top of its head, allowing it to see, hear, and breath while the rest of its massive body remains submerged underwater. Its flat feet and muscular tail help to propel Saltwater crocodiles through water rapidly and smoothly.

4. Diet

Saltwater crocodiles are strictly carnivorous. They are opportunistic predators, who flexibly adjust their diet according to food availability. They can also survive with very little food. Vicious and aggressive, they eat every living organism nearby, including humans. They usually prey and hunt on fish, birds, and mammals, and namely prefer to eat wallabies, water buffalo, cattle, crabs, and turtles. Their incredible jumping abilities and swimming speeds enable them to attack prey with a single powerful strike. While small animals are eaten as a whole, they drag large animals down into the water and drown them, then tear them into pieces with their sharp teeth. Sometimes, they also store up extra food to be eaten at a later time.

3. Habitat and Range

Saltwater crocodiles usually inhabit mangrove swamps, coastal marshes, and river mouths, especially in the Northern Territory, the state of Queensland, and the state of Western Australia in the overall country of Australia. They can, however, also live in the open ocean for long periods of time, and will cross large expanses of water to reach new areas. This has made them widespread in such areas as many Pacific Islands, much of Southeast Asia, Fiji, and New Guinea. Seasonal migration is common among saltwater crocodiles. They usually spend the tropical wet season in freshwater rivers and swamps and, when dry season befalls, they move to estuaries and lakes, and sometimes will venture out to sea. Because of their adaptions to weather and their flexible diets, they are thriving. The IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species lists them as a species of "Least Concern".

2. Behavior

As their name suggests, saltwater crocodiles love to occupy salty and brackish waters. Unlike other kinds of crocodiles, they are territorial and aggressive, especially the males, who often engage in rivalries over territory and females. Pairs of male and female mates usually share a territory. They are also very fierce and perceptive when it comes to hunting, and they can attack their prey with incredible speed and accuracy. Hunting usually takes place at night. During the daytime, most of the time saltwater crocodiles remain very lethargic, enjoying their time basking in the sun and loitering in the water. Their activity levels also decrease as winter approaches.

1. Reproduction

Saltwater crocodiles mate in the wet season, which lasts throughout September and October in Australia. After mating, the females lay eggs in pre-made nests between November and March. A litter usually is comprised by around 50 eggs. Female saltwater crocodiles are known for their affectionate maternal care, as they watch their eggs carefully during the incubation period and will do their best to assist their hatching. This hatching period lasts roughly 12 weeks. After that, mothers will assist the young ones to reach the water, and will guard them for their first weeks of life to ensure their safety. Despite such attentive care, only 1% of hatchings can survive due to other predators. The surviving ones, however, have very long life spans, which may last as long as up to 70 years.

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