Have you ever wondered what do crocodiles eat?
Crocodiles are considered to be one of the most feared animals on earth. Their huge jaws and aggressiveness make all other creatures tremble. Those carnivorous predators have been around for quite some time now. They passed the test of time because, eventually, they were living with dinosaurs around 66 million years ago. They are truly amazing creatures and unmerciful hunters, and the logical question we all have is: what do crocodiles eat?
Biology Of Crocodiles
Crocodiles are the largest reptiles on earth. They are semi-aquatic and mainly live in Africa, Asia, America, and Australia’s tropics. There are 24 species of crocodiles. They are divided into three families. The Aligatoridae family consists of 8 species. The Crocodylidae family consists of 14 species, and the Gavialidae family has just 2 species. Crocodiles are mostly associated with alligators. However, those two belong to different biological families.
The size, behavior, eating habits, and general characteristics can be different among the species. However, they have some similarities too. Crocodiles are large and have a lizard-like appearance. They have very powerful jaws and conical teeth. Crocodile legs are short and webbed at the toes. Their webbed feet help them propel through the water. It also allows them to be quick and make sudden movements.
Their unique appearance helps them to hide under the water and at the same time watch out for their prey with eyes, ears, and nostrils. Crocodiles have thick and plated skin and long tails.
These aggressive reptiles are found in freshwater, primarily rivers, wetlands, lakes, brackish waters, and, in some cases, saltwater. Webbed feet help them tolerate the saltwater better. For this purpose, they have special salt glands that filter out the salt. Crocodiles are pretty sensitive to low temperatures.
The lifespan of crocodiles depends on many factors. However, for example, a Nile crocodile and an estuarine crocodile can live up to 80 years. True crocodiles can live up to 75 years. The average life length remains somewhere between 30 and 60 years.
It is very strange and interesting that the crocodiles are related very closely to the birds. The adaptive behaviors and many characteristics are found to be similar. There is one main difference, though. Most importantly, crocodiles do not feed their babies. Now let’s move on to their eating habits and discuss what do crocodiles eat.
Eating Habits Of Crocodiles
To find out what do crocodiles eat, first, we will need to carefully observe their eating habits. When they get hungry, they will hunt for anything that becomes available to them. Crocodiles can eat up to 2 or 2.5 pounds of meat each day. 5% of the total body weight is created each week. However, it is mainly dependent on the living environment and the size of the crocodile itself.
Research has shown that during the rainy months, they are more eager to eat aquatic creatures such as fish. However, during the dry seasons, they prefer to eat land animals. If the prey is small enough to fit in their jaws, they will go for it without a second thought.
Their unique characteristic is that they can’t tear the food into smaller pieces; they have to eat it whole. Crocodiles eat stones and rocks too. Swallowing stones helps them stay in balance by increasing their weight. Also, it allows them to stay underwater easily. The rocks also assist the stomach in crushing the food. The process is almost similar to the grit ingestion of birds. The stones are like digestive aids and grind up the food that gets into the stomach. Normally, the weight of stones in a crocodile’s stomach goes up to 10-15 pounds.
Crocodiles are cold-blooded and will require less food. This also causes their very slow metabolism. What do crocodiles eat is mainly dependent on their habitat. However, this is why they can live without food for a long period of time. Sometimes, they can even go without food for months.
There is a famous term, “crocodile tears”. The term mainly refers to the fake display of emotions. However, it is based on facts. Crocodiles do produce tears when they eat. It happens because they swallow air and it gets in contact with the glands that produce tears, the lachrymal glands. It affects the gland’s functioning, and as a result, the tears are produced.
The most attention-grabbing characteristic of crocodiles is their jaws. They are so powerful that they can apply pressure of up to 5000 pounds per square inch. In comparison, the human jaw can only apply 100 pounds of pressure. They have teeth. However, they do not have the masticatory function, meaning that they are not useful for chewing. The pressure comes only from the jaws.
What Do Crocodiles Eat In The Wild?
Instead of asking what do crocodiles eat, we should be wondering what they do not eat. It turns out that they will eat anything. They are not picky eaters at all and will eat pretty much any creature that moves, swims, flies, or crawls. They especially enjoy eating the following creatures:
Not surprisingly, they will eventually attack and eat humans too. If they are hungry, they can be cannibals and eat other crocodiles. They do not have preferences and equally eat dead and live animals.
Crocodiles are considered to be among the sturdiest reptiles and mammals in the world. Killing or capturing them is very difficult.
They will eventually get very aggressive when someone goes near their territory. They will eventually attack and start hunting. There are even cases when crocodiles have attacked, killed, and eaten anacondas. Generally, the diet of crocodiles is mainly dependent on their living environment and habitat. So, they will have to stay confined to whatever they find in their area.
What Do Crocodiles Eat In Captivity?
Crocodiles are often kept captive in zoos or aquariums. There, they have a different diet. However, no matter what, all of them are fed meat. Captive crocodiles are not good hunters and can have preferences too. Normally, they reach the age of 70 or more. However, it is not known how long crocodiles can live in the wild. Crocodiles that are in captivity are mainly fed mice, fish, chicken, rats, beef, and other kinds of meat.
What Do Crocodiles Eat As Babies?
Baby crocodiles emerge from the eggs. The eggs are approximately 20-30 cm in size. (8–12 in.) In the first stage of life, the newly emerged babies stay together. They have mainly gathered by the edge of the water to avoid potential predators.
Hatchlings are carried by their mother’s mouth. Before hatching, the babies can make noise from the eggs. The mother can hear them, digs up the eggs, and takes them to water. After hatching, the mother helps the babies adapt to the new environment.
So what do crocodiles eat when they’re babies? Young crocodiles mainly feed on insects. Common food items for them include snails and other crustaceans. Babies are often seen eating shrimp. Growing up, they will slowly move on to bigger prey such as small frogs and small fish. They are hunters just like adults, but will only hunt prey that is small in size.
During the first four years of life, they only grow 30 centimeters (1 foot) a year. The growth is decreasing slowly year after year. Crocodiles become adults at the age of 10.
Threats to Crocodiles
Even though crocodiles are considered to be unbeatable and fearless predators, they are not the prey of choice. However, they can become the prey of other animals. Mostly, they are attacked by jaguars, leopards, anacondas, pythons, hippos, and elephants.
Baby crocodiles are especially vulnerable. Fish, birds, herons, egrets, eagles, and wild pigs can hunt for baby crocodiles. They can become the prey of other adult crocodiles too. Cannibalism in crocodiles is normal, and it is also a way of regulating the general population.
Interesting Facts About What Do Crocodiles Eat
- Crocodiles can attack and eat sharks.
- Saltwater crocodiles are the largest reptiles on earth. They grow up to 6 meters (20 feet, 3 inches) and weigh over a ton.
- Crocodiles produce tears when they eat.
- Under the water, their jaws are open. It happens because the valve in the throat allows them to open it under the water surface.
- Crocodiles have the strongest bite in the animal world.
- They have 80 teeth, and they can replace them indefinitely.
Crocodiles are considered to be one of the greatest hunters on earth. Their anatomy allows them to hide well. Most of the time, they will suddenly jump out of the water, and it allows them to hunt for birds and flies. Their size and large jaws give them unlimited power and can drag animals even bigger than them into the water. The animals will either drown there or get suffocated by them.
Crocodiles are vicious and fearless reptiles that have managed to survive for millions of years. There is no straightforward answer to the question of what do crocodiles eat. The fact is that they will eat everything and anything that comes in their way. It is impossible for any creature not to fear their dangerously huge and powerful jaws.