- Education and Science
The Saltwater Crocodiles
Crocodylus porosus - the saltwater crocodile
Saltwater crocodiles in World War II
It was the worst, and the final night for many an Imperial Japanese soldier. They were losing the war against the Allied forces, and they had known this for a long time by then. The massive grab for power and territory to assert racial superiority was a failure. How could the emperor have been wrong? Best to just shove these thoughts away, and keep going. Soldiers must do their duty, obey orders, and never question their leaders. Fight on and there is always hope.
Currently, however, the army was in retreat from the ever advancing Allies, specifically, the British Royal Navy. In their deepest thoughts the soldiers of Japan must have surely desired getting off Ramree island. They just never imagined they'd be pushed by the superior Allied forces into those mangrove swamps. Some estimates are that a thousand Imperial Japanese were eaten by crocodiles over the night. The servicemen of the Allied forces could hear the screaming, the intermittent gunfire, and the splashing made by the huge beasts.
The late Steve Irwin and a large saltwater crocodile
Saltwater crocodiles ate many Japanese soldiers on Ramree Island in World War Two
Now, the story of all the Japanese soldiers getting eaten by saltwater crocodiles on Ramree Island has been 'debunked' by some people who were totally not there. So maybe a thousand Japanese weren't made a meal of by crocodiles? So what.
Allied soldiers who were there have more credibility than some wanna be science guy who wasn't there, and was sitting or doing his thing in total safety, many years after the events. I don't think anyone disputes that Japanese soldiers were being eaten by crocodiles in the battle. If the true number wasn't one thousand Japanese eaten, then surely five hundred is plenty enough to give you the gist of the dangers one faces from a hungry saltwater crocodile. I hope it does. Myself, I'm terrified from here in Texas, where I've never seen a crocodile of any stripe.
A crocodile attack
That crocodiles will attack and eat humans isn't something disputed at all. It happens all over the world, and pretty often. There are many species of crocodilians and six of them are known to pose serious dangers to humans. The American saltwater crocodile is less aggressive than are the others. This shouldn't inspire you to want to get close to one. It's not a good idea at all. Generally speaking, a crocodile has to be at least six foot long to be a threat to humans.
The thinking is that an animal of the croc persuasion less than six feet in length will see the human and instinctively know the human is too big to bother with trying to eat. This thinking is only rational insofar as normal sized adults go. If someone is a dwarf, generally small or weak, or if the individual in question happens to be a child - or if the person is sane at all, then stay a safe distance from the crocodile. Those things aren't to be disrespected or underestimated at all. You get the chance you get, and if you mess it off, you may lose a limb or your life. Can you imagine the jokes that will be made about you should you lose a limb or something for being stupid with a crocodile? You should shudder at the thought.
The places where humans and saltwater crocodiles come into contact often are very remote places. Because of this, there's no accurate data for something like 'how many people are attacked by crocodiles each year.' One thing you can be sure of is - it doesn't matter how big a crocodile is, if one bites you, you are going to be seriously injured. Can you imagine what kind of bacteria lives inside a crocodiles mouth?
A big saltwater crocodile in Australia
The danger zone - non-American saltwater crocodile distribution map
American saltwater crocodile distribution map
Where do saltwater crocodiles live?
So we've established two things, 1. a saltwater crocodile will eat you any time he or she gets a chance to, and 2. the American variety are less aggressive than some others. Great! You hopefully know now that if you are in saltwater crocodile territory you do not mess around with them at all, even small ones can hurt you very badly - you're no Steve Irwin, and so you need to know where they live so as to protect yourself when in those areas.
Beware coastal areas from Northern Australia up into Southern India. Going to Egypt soon? Well, the Nile crocodile isn't specifically a saltwater crocodile, and yet it is. The Nile crocodile doesn't come into this story, except for now, as it is a smaller - smaller and more deadly species of crocodile. The Nile crocodile is the single most successful eater of humans on the planet Earth. I bet that if you are reading this you didn't just happen to have that particular factoid in your repertoire, but now you do, aye, and you're the better now for it, no?
The American crocodile? Oh it's a friendly beast. It's less likely to eat you than its cousins who will absolutely eat you. Does this make the American version of the saltwater crocodile something to approach for a photo opportunity? Well Sir, Darwin reigns supreme in the America's as his science does across the Earth. You be the judge, and report back to us what you've seen in these hinterlands of the Americas. Vacation spots for the continental folks of the USA and Canada - but our comrades to the South should surely know the more.
A life and death experience with a saltwater crocodile
Mega predator, the saltwater crocodile will eat just about anything it can kill
The saltwater crocodile is not a picky eater. No obsessive compulsive diet disorders in sight for these beasts, they'll eat what they can kill, and they can kill a long list of creatures. The study of freshly hatched crocodiles and what they eat is easy, the study of itty bitty crocodiles is easy, the study of three foot long crocodiles is easy - but the study of adult crocodiles? That's not so easy. You can't study an adult crocodile except from a very safe distance, so what do adult crocodiles eat when they can't get human?
Adult crocodiles will eat anything they can get. Loads of fish, any bird, any four legged creature, any two legged creature. They're fond of pigs of all kinds, of course; and if an emu gets close to the water, then the crocodile will surely love to eat the big bird. Literally, the saltwater crocodiles will eat anything made out of meat that it can get at.
Again, strictly speaking the Nile crocodile isn't a saltwater crocodile. It's another animal, though it is very very similar. Nile crocodiles eat a lot of humans. Humans make for fine meals for them; and salty crocodiles will eat human any time they can, and any sort of monkey. It happens more than you might imagine. Some of these places are so far removed from Western civilization that people can be born, live a while, get eaten by a crocodile, and hardly anyone ever knows they even existed, or how they came to no longer exist.
As in the image above, saltwater crocodiles wait in the water for something that looks like meat, and then can launch themselves the full length of their bodies upwards into the air - snatching unsuspecting things away in a flash of teeth. Another technique saltwater crocs use - is that massive tail of theirs. The crocodile's tail is a terrific weapon, and the creature will use it to knock prey into the water where they can easily dominate and consume.
The head of a saltwater crocodile
The saltwater crocodile's bite
So the saltwater crocodile will eat anything it can get. Its massive tail is a weapon and the thing has the ability to leap lengthwise out of the water and into the air, and it can leap onto land at prey very well too. None of those things are the most leather part of the crocodile though, and of course the jaws of the croc are where the real terror is at.
The bite force of a saltwater crocodile is far and away the most powerful bite force on Earth. The crocodile's bite is estimated to be twice as powerful and bone crushing as the bit of the very extinct and super famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes, you read that correctly, the saltwater crocodile has a fiercer and more powerful bite than the infamous T-Rex had. How can this possibly be so? Well, it is all in the anatomy of the saltwater crocodile's skull. The salty croc's skull was engineered by evolution to be above and beyond anything else now living on the planet.
How can anyone even know this sort of thing about a crocodile's bite? It's because crocodiles have evolved very little over the past eighty million years. Modern crocodile's can have their bite force studied in a lab setting, and because there has been so little change in crocodiles over so long a period of time, the data and science apply easily to long extinct crocodile like creatures.
You see that big fat looking area on the crocodile just past its head? That is entirely muscle. That 'fat' looking thing is hunks of muscle so dense the density is near that of bone. This is where the terrible power of the crocodile's jaws come from.
A leopard eating a crocodile
What eats a crocodile?
We know a saltwater crocodile and crocodiles in general will eat just about anything, but what eats a crocodile? Well, big cats, for instance - big cats eat crocodiles. Most specifically, leopards eat the traditional saltwater crocodiles. In the Americas you've got jaguars, and the jaguars will eat American saltwater crocodiles, and also the smaller caimans. It's very likely a jaguar can't tell the difference between a caiman and a crocodile, and really, who but someone who truly and deeply studies those animals can? Caimans are much smaller than American crocodiles. A juvenile crocodile and an adult caiman may be about the same size, and they are small enough for a jaguar to get the jump on them, and have them for a meal.
It is fitting and well that terrestrial predators eat other predators of another ilk. Surely a crocodile will eat leopard or jaguar whenever they can. It is more than likely this happens at times. There are surely leopards or jaguars who get ambushed while stalking another type of prey into the water.
What about us, we humans, do we eat crocodile? Oh yes we do. We certainly eat alligator. Humans eat crocodile - but the meat must not be so wonderful to the taste buds. I'm sure if you are hungry enough it'll make a meal. Crocodile meat is also used for foods such as dog food, and probably cat food too.
Pythons and anacondas are another creature that can and will attack and kill crocodiles. It is a given that literally nothing save a human of a hippopotamus is going to be able to kill a full grown crocodile, but juvenile crocodiles can be killed and eaten by the largest and most powerful of the snakes.
Baby crocodiles are tiny and helpless things. Birds of prey, snakes, cats; and canids will all kill and eat small crocodiles when they can. It is literally an eat or be eaten situation with baby crocs. If you pass them up as a meal today, it may be the very crocodile that eats you in years to come.
Treat your good dog to some crocodile snacks!
Saltwater crocodile love
Baby saltwater crocodiles
The lives of the saltwater crocodiles
Crocodile reproduction is an irregular business. There is typical crocodile reproduction, and then there are the irregularities. Typically crocs mate in September and October, and the female lays eggs between November and March. These are the warm months for the Southern hemisphere crocodiles. The American variety, of course, do their things in the warmer months of the Americas. The crocodiles typically do this every year. Sometimes, however, the female is only interested in the activity every other year. Sometimes a female is interested in laying fertilized eggs twice in a season. She's got the right to change her mind about things, and after all, she doesn't want some male crocodile monopolizing her body.
The female crocodile selects the homestead. She then coerces the male into aiding her in the guarding of the nest site. Forty to sixty eggs are laid, but sometimes the clutch may be as high as ninety. Various and sundry creatures prey on those eggs when neither crocodile is near enough to defend them. The female crocodile mother displays a huge amount of care for both the eggs and the hatchlings, and she attends to them for several months after hatching. This doesn't prevent a large percentage of loss. Crocodiles being crocodiles - they'll eat another creatures children, of course, then they cry crocodile tears.
If the crocodiles survive to be two years of age, they then typically size in at over three feet in length. That's still plenty small enough to be a meal for many a predator. The crocs do not reach sexual maturity until sixteen years in males, and twelve to fourteen years in females. They are born very very small, but can grow to lengths, in males, of twenty three feet and four thousand pounds. These are nearly dinosaurs, and are hyper-carnivorous apex ambush predators of the highest and deadliest order.
So how many years do these near dinosaur crocodiles live to dominate all living things within their territory? Oh, about as long as we humans live to dominate our little consumerist domiciles. They live about seventy years on average. One was reported to have lived one hundred and fifteen years in captivity. Few of them go vegan. That was a joke, of course, the crocodile is one of the most prolific carnivores on the planet.
Saltwater crocodiles and crocodiles in general are in danger from humans due to having such valuable skins. Australia in particular suffered the greatest losses, but now these animals are protected, and crocodile skin things such as boots and Oprah's purses are going to be very expensive, but very coveted by everyone into the whole consumerism thing. Saltwater crocodiles are considered of minimum concern insofar as extinction goes. While their hides are of great value, they're not being killed off like elephants are with poaching. Crocodile skin is attractive and valuable, but luckily for the crocodiles, doesn't inspire the rampant greed and slaughter ivory does. I hope I've provided something of interest about crocodiles here. Thank you for reading.