The prehistoric looking Nile Crocodile
The Nile crocodile is a large crocodilian native to freshwater habitats in Africa
The nile crocodile it is present in 26 countries.
Africa's largest crocodilian can reach a maximum size of about 20 feet and can weigh up to 1,650 pounds. Average sizes, though, are more in the range of 16 feet and 500 pounds. Nile Crocodiles are thought to live between 70 – 100 years.
If you look at pictures and videos of Nile Crocodiles, many of them can be seen basking in the sun with their mouths wide open. Even though it puts their sharp, pointed teeth on display, it isn't meant as a threatening gesture. This is just how crocodiles keep themselves from overheating.
The diet of the Nile crocodile is mainly fish, but it will attack almost anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, including zebras, small hippos, porcupines, birds, and other crocodiles. It will also scavenge carrion but they also prefer live prey. It doesn't matter if the animal is small and the meat portions are large, they want the food that's still wiggling. They're the ultimate carnivores.
Nile crocodiles are cold-blooded animals with efficient metabolisms, so they can go long periods without eating. Technically speaking, they can survive for years without a meal, but most crocodiles don't wait that long. They eat a few times per month or whenever opportunity knocks. When they do decide to indulge, Nile crocodiles can consume up to half of their body weight at a time. This meat is stored and digested very slowly.
They ambush animals. They sink underwater and wait for their prey to come and get a drink from the river or lake. Once they detect noise and movement, they'll spring into action, grabbing the prey before it even knows what's happening. Contrary to popular belief, a crocodile's bite isn't automatically fatal. They use their teeth to hold the animal still while they trash it around or drag it back to the water to drown. Their teeth are used more as tools than weapons. Once the animal is dead, the crocodile will consume every part of it. This includes horns, hooves, claws and other items that you might assume are non-digestible. Crocodiles don't care.
The bite force of adult male Nile crocodiles is between 3,000 – 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi). This is right on par with saltwater crocodiles, and both species tend to share and swap the #1 and #2 spots for “strongest teeth in the animal kingdom.” For comparison's sake, the human bite measures around 150 – 200 psi. Wolves hover around 400 psi. Lions and tigers generate around 1,000 psi. As for their fearsome teeth, they have between 64 – 68 on both sides of their jaw. These teeth are cone-shaped but finely sharpened. Baby crocodiles have a prominent “egg tooth” that falls off once it serves its purposes of breaking through the shell.
Nile crocodiles are like other reptiles in the sense that females lay eggs. However, there are some fun peculiarities in the stages between “two crocodiles making eyes at each other” and “babies hatching from their shells.” For starters, Nile crocodiles don't wait for a specific age or season to start mating. For them, it's all about body length. Males will look for partners when they're longer than 10 – 11 feet, and females will look when they're between 7 – 9 feet.
Female Nile crocodiles lay between 25 – 80 eggs at a time. They dig nests in sandy shores and riverbanks, keeping the eggs covered and protected for a three-month incubation period. Both mother and father crocodiles are extremely protective of their nests and will defend them aggressively. Nile crocodiles are affected by something known as temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). This means that their gender isn't controlled by their genetic makeup. Instead, they become male or female based on the internal temperature of their eggs. If the temperature is between 89.2°F – 94.0°F, the crocodile becomes male. If the temperature is below 89.1°F or above 94.1°F, the crocodile becomes female.
Despite the fierce protection of their parents, only 10 percent of eggs are hatched from every nest. Flooding is common, and there are many animals that eat crocodile eggs. One species of lizard known as the Nile monitor can decimate up to 50 percent of a nest's eggs in a single night.
They might be on top of the animal kingdom, but Nile crocodiles are vulnerable to several different things: Pollution Loss of habitat and Hunting Loss of habitat is probably the biggest danger faced by Nile crocodiles. Not only are they losing ground thanks to deforestation, but global warming has reduced the size and scale of their wetlands. They also have problems whenever humans move into an area and start building dams, dredges and irrigation systems. As previously mentioned, hunting is an issue. Their skulls and scales are considered trophies, and their hides can be turned into leather. Hunted close to extinction in the 1940s through the 1960s, local and international protections have helped them rebound in most areas. In some regions, though, pollution, hunting, and habitat loss have severely depleted their numbers.
Crocodiles are "famous" for the migration in Tanzania where they ambush many wildebeest as the cross the Mara River – click here for more information on this amazing annual occurrence.
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