Information about: Crocodile

Index | Crocodile

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Crocodile. A family and genus of the order Crocodilia, comprising the largest living saurian reptiles. The characteristics of the order are as follows: The skin of the back and the neck is thick and tough and covered with lozenge-shaped plates of bone, arranged in rows; on the throat, abdomen, and tail is a covering of tough scales. The jaws are long and their gape of enormous width; they are large and strong, and are armed with rows of sharp, conical teeth that are shed when worn out and replaced with others. The nostrils are at the extremity of the snout, and are capable of being closed to prevent the ingress of water. The heart is four-chambered. The tail is long and compressed laterally. The four feet are short, and there are five toes on each of the two fore feet, and four on each of the two hind feet, the latter more or less webbed; the limbs are short and thick. The families now existing are the Gavialidae and Crocodilidae. The gavials are found in northern India, Borneo, and Sumatra, and attain a maximum length of 17 feet. The snout is long and narrow and shaped like the handle of a frying pan. The crocodile family includes four genera: Osteoloeemus, natives of equatorial Africa; Caiman, mostly of equatorial South America; Crocodilus and Alligator. The crocodile and alligator closely resemble each other, but may be distinguished by the following points of difference: The head of the crocodile is triangular; long, and ends in a rounded point. The head of the alligator is broad, with almost parallel sides and a wide, blunt snout. The canine tooth in the lower jaw of the crocodile fits, when the mouth is closed, into a notch in the outside of the upper jaw, the tip showing as a white spot just behind the nostril; in the alligator this same tooth fits into a pit in the upper jaw. The crocodile sometimes attains a length of 14 feet. Although the crocodile of Africa is the best-known member of this order, at least four American species are known, one living in southern Florida. They are also found in India and Maylayana. A single species of alligator is found in China, and one, Alligator mississippiensis, in southern United States. The alligator sometimes attains a length of 16 feet. Crocodiles are formidable from their great size and strength, but on shore their shortness of limb, great length of body, and difficulty of turning enable men and animals readily to escape pursuit. In the water they are generally active and formidable. They apparently live to a great age.