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Crocodile facts for kids

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Temporal range: Eocene – Recent
Nile Crocodile
Scientific classification

Cuvier, 1807

A crocodile is a large amphibious reptile. It lives mostly in large tropical rivers, where it is an ambush predator. One species, the Australian saltie, also travels in coastal salt water. In very dry climates, crocodiles may aestivate and sleep out the dry season.

Some scientists estimate that the modern type of crocodile appeared first in the Eocene period, while others believe its ancestors go much further back, to the Upper Triassic. The name "Crocodile" is also used for any member of the order Crocodilia. They are basically Archosaurs, a group which also includes the dinosaurs. There are many species of Crocodiles including the American, slender-snouted, and Orinoco crocodile.

The crocodile can snap its jaws shut quickly and with much power. But crocodiles have very little strength in opening their jaws, and a person could hold the jaws shut with their hands.

Crocodiles range in size from African Dwarf crocodiles that measure rarely over 5 feet to saltwater crocodiles that can approach 23 feet.

Crocodylidae Distribution
Distribution of crocodiles


Crocodiles live in rivers, lakes, and dams in parts of America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Some of the crocodiles from Australia live in salt water. These saltwater crocodiles are normally bigger than the ones that live in fresh water. While crocodiles spend most of their time in the water, they can come out and move around on the land. Crocodiles cannot breathe underwater: they breathe air, just like people. They can hold their breath for a maximum of about two hours underwater. Some people feel threatened by crocodiles because they can be violent. However, some people find them fascinating.

What they look like

Marsh crocodile or Maggar at Ranganathittu Sanctuary (pix SShukla)
crocodilo-persa (crocodilo mugger)

Crocodiles' colors range from brown to grey or sometimes greenish-brownish. They have different shaped patterns covering them. They have sharp claws and teeth. Crocodile tongues are not free. They are held in place by a membrane that can not move. Crocodiles are unable to stick out their tongues.

Differences between crocodiles and alligators

Alligators and crocodiles are different in many ways. For example, in general:

  • Crocodiles have salt glands, so they can live in saltwater habitats. Alligators usually live in freshwater habitats.
  • Usually, crocodiles have longer and narrower snouts than alligators. Their snouts are shaped like a V; however, some crocodiles do have wide snouts. Most alligators have wide snouts that are shaped like a U.
  • When its mouth is closed, you can see the fourth tooth on a crocodile's jaw. You cannot see that tooth when an alligator's mouth is closed.

Interesting facts about crocodiles

  • Since crocodiles cannot sweat, they open their mouths to keep cool. This is called “mouth gaping.”
  • Crocodiles replace their teeth up to 50 times in their lifetimes, as opposed to humans, who have one set of baby teeth and one set of adult teeth.
  • The bite of a crocodile is nearly three times as strong as a lion or tiger. It is the strongest bite of any animal in the world.
  • The crocodile spins its prey to disorient them and to help limbs separate from the bodies of larger animals.
  • The human expression “crocodile tears” means to show insincere emotion. Crocodiles shed tears when their lachrymal gland pushes water out when they swallow too much air.
  • Because crocodiles cannot chew, they swallow stones to help their stomach break down the food they eat.
  • A crocodile’s stomach is the most acidic of any vertebrate.

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