The combed crocodile got its name from the presence of ridges in the area of the eyeballs. With age, they increase in size and number. Saltwater crocodile is one of the most ancient types of reptiles on Earth. Its size and appearance are simply amazing and inspire wild fear and horror. It is one of the most powerful and large predators, surpassing even the polar bear in size and strength.
Origin of the species and description
Salted crocodiles are reptiles and are representatives of the order of crocodiles, the family and genus of real crocodiles, distinguished as a combed crocodile. This type of reptile is considered one of the oldest living creatures on the planet. According to scientists, they are descended from crocodilemorphoeusuchians.
These creatures lived in water bodies near the continent of Gondwana about 100 million years ago. Surprisingly, they managed to survive during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction period. The remains of an ancient reptile have been discovered in the western region of Queensland. Judging by historical data, there was once a sea in this territory. The remains of the skeleton indicate that the reptile of those times was capable of performing death rotations.
Scientists cannot name a specific period for the appearance of the combed crocodile as a separate species. The most ancient remains of combed crocodiles are about 4.5 – 5 million years old. By external signs, combed crocodiles have much in common with Philippine, New Guinean or Australian crocodiles. But comparison at the genetic level shows similarities with Asian reptile species.
Appearance and features
External the sight of a dangerous and powerful reptile strikes and inspires fear. The body length of an adult reaches six meters. Body weight 750 – 900 kilograms.
Interesting! The mass of one head in some large males reaches two tons! Reptiles have pronounced sexual dimorphism. Females are much smaller and lighter than males. The body weight of females is almost half that, and the body length does not exceed 3 meters.
The body is flat and voluminous, smoothly flowing into a huge tail. Its length is more than half the length of the body. The overweight body is supported by short, powerful paws. Because of this, combed crocodiles were related to alligators for a very long period of time. However, after the research, they were moved to the family and species of real crocodiles.
Video: Salted crocodile
Crocodiles have an elongated muzzle with huge, powerful jaws. They are incredibly strong and have 64-68 sharp teeth. No one can open their closed jaws. On the head are small, high-set eyes and two rows of ridges that run from the eyes to the tip of the nose.
The area of the back and abdomen is covered with scales, which do not ossify with age, as in representatives of other species. The color of the skin is brown or dark green with an olive tint. This color allows you to go unnoticed when in ambush while hunting. Juveniles have a lighter, yellowish color with dark stripes and spots located throughout the body.
By the age of 6-10 years, the color of the reptiles becomes much darker. With age, spots and stripes become less pronounced and bright, but never completely disappear. The lower abdomen and limbs are very light, almost yellow. The inner surface of the tail is gray with dark stripes.
Reptiles have excellent eyesight. They see perfectly both in water and on land, at a great distance. While in the water, the eyes are closed with a special protective film. Salted crocodiles are endowed with excellent hearing, due to which they react to the slightest, barely audible rustles. The body of the combed crocodile is equipped with special glands that cleanse it of excess salt. Thanks to this, it can live not only in fresh, but also in salty sea waters.
Where does the saltwater crocodile live?
To date, the habitat of saltwater crocodiles has been significantly reduced.
Habitat of saltwater crocodile:
- Eastern regions of India;
- New Guinea;
- Southeast Asia;
- Japan (single individuals).
Most predators are concentrated in the waters of the Indian, Pacific Ocean, in the northern regions of Australia. This species of crocodiles is distinguished by the ability to swim well and travel long distances. Thanks to this ability, they can even swim into the open ocean and live there for a month or more. Males tend to cover a distance of up to a thousand kilometers, females can swim half as much. They can feel comfortable in small ponds. They can adapt to living in reservoirs with fresh and salt water.
Quiet, calm and deep-sea places, savannahs, flat areas with high vegetation, as well as the mouths of streams and the sea coast are considered ideal habitats. When reptiles enter the open waters of the seas or oceans, they prefer to go with the flow rather than actively move.
Most of these powerful and predatory reptiles prefer a warm climate, and small water sources – swamps, estuaries rivers. With the onset of a severe drought, they descend down to the very mouth of the rivers.
What does the saltwater crocodile eat?
Salted crocodiles are the most powerful, insidious and very dangerous predator. It is at the top of the food chain. The basis of the diet is meat, which is required in large quantities by such a powerful and large animal. The animal eats only fresh meat. He will never use carrion, except when he is in a weak state. Young individuals and females can eat large insects and small, even invertebrate animals. Large, young males require much larger and larger prey.
The basis of the diet of the combed crocodile is:
- African buffalo;
- sharks and extra-large fish;
In the animal world, combed crocodiles are considered particularly cruel predators. They eat everything, not disdaining even people and other crocodiles, including representatives of their own species, only younger and smaller. In hunting skill they have no equal. Crocodiles can lie in ambush for a long time in water or thickets of vegetation.
When the prey is within reach, the predator rushes at it with a lightning jerk and closes its jaws in a death grip. It is inherent in them not to kill, but by holding the victim to rotate around the axis of their body and tear off pieces. A crocodile can swallow at once a piece that is equal in weight to half the mass of its body.
At first glance, the crocodile seems to be a clumsy and clumsy animal. However, this is a profound misunderstanding. It easily overcomes obstacles, while hunting it can climb steep, rocky shores and slippery stones. While chasing prey in water, it develops a speed of up to 35 km/h.
A large amount of food eaten is processed into adipose tissue. It helps the reptile easily endure the absence of a food source. With a sufficient amount of adipose tissue, some individuals can easily exist without food for several months to a year. In the stomach of predators there are stones that help to grind pieces of meat that they swallow whole.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Salted crocodiles are the most dangerous, cunning and intelligent predators. In strength, power and deceit, they have no competitors in nature. It can exist in both fresh and salt water. In search of food and in the process of hunting, they can travel significant distances, go out into the open ocean and stay there for quite some time. A long powerful tail, which acts as a rudder, helps to navigate the water.
It is not common for reptiles to move along rivers, for so long and many. Forged predators do not have a herd feeling. They can live in group conditions, but more often they choose a solitary lifestyle.
Salted crocodiles do not tolerate too high temperatures. They prefer to dive into the water and wait out the intense heat there. When the ambient temperature drops, reptiles look for warm places, rocks and rocky, sun-warmed land surfaces. Insidious predators are considered very smart and organized. It is inherent in them to communicate with each other through certain sounds. During the period of marriage, as well as in the struggle for territory, they can be extremely aggressive towards other members of their species. Such fights have a terrifying spectacle and often end in death.
Each individual or small flock has its own territory, which is protected from the invasion of other individuals. Females occupy a territory of about one square kilometer and protect it from the invasion of other females. Males cover a large territory, including the habitat of several females and a freshwater zone suitable for breeding. Males are very aggressive towards other males, but very supportive of females. They are even ready to share their prey with them.
People do not cause fear in reptiles. They rarely attack them as prey. This phenomenon is common in regions where large concentrations of predators lead to severe food shortages. Also, attacks on people happen if a person is careless or threatens small crocodiles or laid eggs.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season for predatory reptiles lasts from November to the end of March. During this period, there is a desire to get closer to fresh water. Often there is a struggle for a plot near a reservoir between males. Males tend to create so-called “harems”, which number more than 10 females.
The creation and arrangement of the nest is a concern that falls entirely on the shoulders of the females. They create huge nests that reach 7-8 meters in length and more than a meter in width and place them on a hill so that the rains do not destroy it. After mating, the female lays her eggs in the nest. The number of eggs can be different and ranges from 25 to 95 pieces.
After laying eggs, she carefully masks the laid eggs with leaves and green vegetation. About three months later, a faint, barely audible squeak comes from the nest. Thus, little crocodiles call their mother for help to help them get rid of the eggshell. Throughout this time, the female is constantly within sight of her nest and carefully guards it.
Little crocodiles are born very small. The body size of the born babies is 20-30 centimeters. Weight does not exceed one hundred grams. However, crocodiles grow very quickly, get stronger and gain body weight. The female takes care of her offspring for 6-7 months. Despite care and protection, the survival rate rarely exceeds one percent. The lion’s share of the offspring dies in a fight with older and stronger individuals, and also become victims of crocodiles – cannibals.
Zoologists note that if the average temperature in the nest is 31.5 degrees, then most of the males hatch from the eggs. This temperature is maintained due to the rotting of the vegetation with which the nest is lined. If the temperature regime fluctuates in the direction of decrease or increase, then females predominate among the babies born. Female individuals reach sexual maturity by 10-12 years, males only from 15, 16 years old.
It is noteworthy that females are ready for mating, whose body length exceeds 2.2 meters, and males, whose body length exceeds 3.2 meters. The average life expectancy of a combed crocodile is 65-75 years. Often there are centenarians who live up to 100 years or more.
Natural enemies of the combed crocodile
In natural conditions among saltwater crocodile Crocodiles have virtually no enemies. In rare cases, they can become the prey of huge sharks. Man is considered the main enemy of man. Due to its poaching activities, this species of reptile has been on the verge of extinction. Young individuals, as well as eggs of combed crocodiles, are considered the most vulnerable to various predators.
Predators that can destroy nests or attack young:
- Monitor lizards;
- Huge turtles;
- Feline predators;
- Large predatory fish.
Adult, strong males often eat younger and weaker individuals. Within the depths of the sea, sharks pose the greatest danger to juveniles.
Population and species status
In the late 1980s, the number of combed crocodiles dropped to a critical level. Reptiles were destroyed in huge numbers because of the value of the skin and the possibility of manufacturing expensive products. This species of crocodiles was listed in the Red Book with the status of “critically endangered”. In the regions of its habitat, the destruction of combed crocodiles is prohibited by law and is punishable by law. In countries where crocodiles live in natural conditions, its skin is highly valued, and reptile meat dishes are considered a special delicacy.
The destruction of the habitual habitat by man also led to a sharp decrease in the population. In many countries, where previously predatory animals were considered familiar animals, they are now completely exterminated. Such an example is Sri Lanka and Thailand, in single quantities remained on the territory of Japan. In the southern region of Vietnam, reptiles used to live in the thousands. Subsequently, up to several hundred individuals were destroyed. To date, according to zoologists, the number of these huge reptiles exceeds 200,000 individuals. Today, the saltwater crocodile is considered a rare species, but not endangered.
Protection of saltwater crocodiles
In order to protect the reptile as a species and prevent complete extinction, the combed crocodile is listed in the international red book. It is also listed in Annex 1 of the Cities Convention, with the exception of New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia. Measures taken in many countries to preserve and increase the species did not give any effect.
In India, a special program has been developed and implemented to protect the bloodthirsty predator. For this purpose, it is bred in artificial conditions on the territory of the Bhitarkinaka National Reserve. As a result of the activities of this park and its employees, about one and a half thousand individuals were released into the wild. Of these, about a third survived.
About a thousand individuals live in India, and this population is recognized as stable.
Australia is considered the leader in the abundance of predatory reptiles. The country’s authorities pay great attention to educating the population and informing them about the need to preserve and increase the species, as well as about criminal liability for the destruction of animals. Farms and national parks are actively operating on the territory of the country, on the territory of which they breed crocodiles.
The combed crocodile is recognized as one of the most terrible, dangerous and amazing animals on earth. It is noteworthy that it is also the most ancient animal, which has practically not undergone any visual changes since ancient times. This is due to living in water sources. It is water that has a constant temperature. Crocodiles are fearless and very cunning hunters, possessing incredible strength and power, which is not inherent in any other animal on Earth.