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Crocodiles and Alligators-Dinosaur Relatives Still Alive Today

Crocodiles are some of the few living creatures today that were alive at the time of the dinosaurs. Their lifestyle and anatomy have helped crocodiles survive for millions of years.

Crocodiles are known to be large reptiles. Some of them can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) In length. The biggest alligator ever found was 19 feet long and most alligators only grow to about 9.75 feet. Crocodiles take up to 8 to 10 years to fully develop. They live in lakes and rivers, spending most of their lives in the water.

When crocodiles are trapping their prey, they drag them to water and keep them under the surface until they drown. Some crocodiles have small legs that don't allow them to walk on land, so they don't always need to come out of the water. When necessary, they stick their eyes and nose out to be able to breathe. They also do this when they are hunting.

Crocodiles have been around for about 65 million years. So, they are among the oldest animals still roaming the Planet Earth. Some of the other animals that have lived side by side with crocodiles are their relatives the alligator, the caiman, and the gavial. Crocodiles and alligators look similar, but the way to tell them apart is by looking at their teeth – crocodile's bottom canines protrude over their top jaw. Crocodiles have glands in their eyes that make tears just as our own eyes do. The difference is they aren’t produced as tears of sadness, but as a way to keep their eyes from getting dry. They produce those tears so they are able to move their eyelids around easily.

There is a relative of the crocodile that lives in the rivers of northern India: its name is gavial. The gavial is very similar to the crocodile, however it has a long narrow snout. There is only one species of gavial still alive today. Gavials eat birds and fish and when they are swallowing them, they swallow head first. They also have long jaws.

Caimans are also relatives of crocodiles, just like alligators and gavials. Black caimans can grow up to 20 feet. Caimans, when they glide through the water, only do it with their eyes and nostrils peeking out above the surface, just like crocodiles. When the caimans give birth and the eggs hatch, the hatchlings can be less than 8 inches, which is 20 centimeters long.

Did you learn anything new? I learned a lot of new reasons why I find these reptiles to be really interesting and fun to learn about. One more example: crocodiles yawn not because they are tired, but because by opening their jaws containing 60 or more teeth, they are able to cool down quickly.

[Sources: Amazing Animal Facts; sciencenews.com, Image Credit: dailymail.co.uk]

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