Africa's Nile Crocodile
by Victor Lien, age 11
Standing near the water’s edge, a zebra gracefully takes a drink of water from the pool. However, the zebra has no idea that a predator is lurking near and is getting closer. Snap! The zebra, taken by surprise, is dragged under water in mere seconds. The Nile crocodile has made another attack.
As the largest reptile in Africa, the Nile crocodile, or Crocodylus niloticus, can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh up to 1,980 pounds. This animal, part of the Crocodilae family, is massively powerful, shown by its previously mentioned effortless attack on a full-grown zebra. Found in Africa, south of the Sahara along the Nile River, and on the island of Madagascar, the crocodile has a lifespan of 70 to 100 years.
The Nile crocodile has many adaptations that set it apart from other animals. One of its unique features is its teeth. Crocodile teeth grow continuously, and about every two years, small sharp ones replace the big old ones.
Its tail steers the crocodile and also helps it attack its prey. Aided by their strong feet and claws, crocodiles can clamber quite quickly up riverbanks. Another distinct feature is the nose on top of the crocodile’s snout that allows it to breathe underwater. The nose has flaps that don’t allow water to get in. Crocodiles’ eyes are also above their heads so they can see when they are in water. They can stay submerged for up to one hour.
Even though the crocodile can survive a year without food, it will eat almost anything it can overpower. The animal can’t chew, so it rips its meat into strips and stores extra food under rocks in the water. This reptile mainly eats mammals, reptiles (such as other crocodiles), fish, birds and carrion, or parts of dead animals. Younger crocodiles eat frogs and insects.
Nile crocodiles can’t regulate their body temperature, so they bask in the sun to stay warm, hold their mouth open to cool themselves and stay in water to beat the heat.
Without a water source, the Nile crocodile’s young will die quickly. Therefore, crocodiles make their homes near water sources. They depend on water to live. Crocodiles usually have about 25 to 100 babies each year. Male crocodiles mate as much as possible during the dry season. After mating, the female digs a hole near water and guards the eggs for three months. When they hatch, the female continues to protect her young from predators for about four months. After these four months, the young crocodiles live in rain puddles, moving on to larger bodies of water as they get older.
Overall, the Nile crocodile is a very interesting animal with unique adaptations. This species has lived on Planet Earth since the time of the dinosaurs.
[Source: Wildlife Explorer]