Killer Crocodiles Rip Prey to Shreds, but are Themselves Vulnerable

Crocodiles are huge reptilian killer machines with tails, bones, and jaws built to hunt.

Crocodiles were around when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth 65 million years ago, and scientists believe they have not changed much since then. People often confuse crocodiles with their cousin, the alligator. The two are distinct, however, in that crocodiles have a pair of teeth that stick out over their top jaws, while alligators have wider, shorter snouts.

Crocodiles eat their prey, including fish, birds, frogs, and crustaceans, by ripping them to pieces and swallowing them without chewing. They live near lakes, wetlands, and even some saltwater regions. Because crocodiles live in such wet areas, when they have been out of water for too long, their eyes cry to protect them, kind of like human eyes. These fierce predators sometimes leave their jaws wide open so they can release heat to cool down.

Mother crocodiles scoop up their young in their mouths to carry them from their nests to the water. Crocodiles lay 10 to 60 eggs at a time, and the eggs hatch after two to three months. Once hatched, the young crocodiles measure about seven to 10 inches.

While people mainly view crocodiles as killer machines, they are actually important predators that are themselves threatened by poaching. One sub-species, the Cuban Crocodile, with a population of only about 4,000, is even considered an endangered species. American crocodiles are also at risk, although they are increasing in number.

Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is working to restore all crocodile sub-species. It would be unfortunate to see this animal--one that has existed since prehistoric times--gone from the Earth for good.

[Source: Amazing Animal Facts]