American crocodiles are well adapted to life in both the fresh and salt water of Central America's tropical wetlands. With their whole body submerged, they wait patiently for fish, frogs or turtles to pass close enough to be grabbed and swallowed whole. After a noisy courtship, up to 60 eggs are laid in a nest, though few survive raids from thieves such as raccoons. American crocodiles shelter, hide and rest in a series of complex burrows. They do not have as much scaly armour as other crocodiles and will usually only become aggressive if they feel threatened.
Scientific name: Crocodylus acutus
The following habitats are found across the American crocodile distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Year assessed: 1996
Classified by: IUCN 2.3
The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also lives within many of the Caribbean islands such as Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Grand Cayman, Greater Antilles and the West Indies. Within the United States, the American crocodile's distribution is limited to the southern half of Florida - though at least two have been found as far north as the Tampa Bay area - and has an estimated population of 2,000; a significant comeback from the few hundred crocodiles found back in the 1970s. The habitat of the American crocodile consists largely of coastal areas. It is also found in river systems but has a tendency to prefer some level of salinity, not just tolerance, resulting in the species congregating in brackish lakes, coastal swamps, lagoons, even cays and small islands. Other crocodiles also have tolerance to salt water due to salt glands underneath the tongue, but the American crocodile is the only species other than the saltwater crocodile to commonly live and thrive in saltwater. They can be found on beaches and island formations without any freshwater source, such as some of the many cays and islets across the Bahamas and the Caribbean. They are also found in hypersaline lakes, such as the Lago Enriquillo; one of the largest population known to exist.
The American crocodile is one of the larger crocodile species. This species has a more V-shaped snout compared to other large crocodiles that usually have a slightly wider snout. As a larger species of crocodile, some males can reach lengths of 6.1 m (20 ft), weighing more than 907 kg (2,000 lb). On average, mature males are more in the range of 4.1 m (13 ft) to 4.8 m (16 ft) in length weighing about 400 kg (880 lb). Like other species, females are smaller; rarely exceeding 3.8 m (12 ft) in length. Adults have a uniform grayish-green coloration with white or yellow undersides, while young have dark cross-banding on the tail and back. Despite their large size, American crocodiles do not regularly attack large animals as most large crocodilians do. Fish, reptiles, birds and small mammals make up majority of their diet. On occasion large mammals such as deer and domestic animals are taken. Their dietary habits in coastal regions are not well studied. Like any other large crocodilian, the American crocodile is potentially dangerous to humans, but it is not a very aggressive species and attacks are rare.
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