Resembling a prehistoric lizard, crocodiles are strong hunters found in the tropical habitats of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. These reptiles live in rivers, lakes, wetlands and even some saltwater regions.
Crocodiles belong to the larger order Crocodilian that includes alligators, caimans and gharials. There are about 14 species of true crocodiles ranging from the smaller dwarf crocodile to the saltwater crocodile.
American crocodiles typically can grow up to 15 ft (4.6 m) long and weigh up to 2,000 lbs (907 kg). Most of these are found in southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. A small population lives in the swamps of Florida.
Other facts about crocodiles
Crocodiles ambush their prey either in the water or on land. They are carnivores who eat fish, birds, mammals and even smaller crocodiles.
Crocodiles use their teeth and jaws to crush prey. They often tear prey apart in chunks or swallow it whole.
They exert enormous pressure when grasping prey between their jaws but have very little strength to open them up. A crocodiles mouth can be kept shut with a simple rubber band.
Crocodiles swallow stones that help grind food inside their stomach. The stones may also be a way to help them balance.
The egg-laying creatures have very keen hearing. They can even hear their babies calling from inside the eggshell.
Crocodiles can swim up to 20 mph (32 kph) with the aid of their strong tails. They are much more awkward on land but can run up to 11 mph (18 kph) for a short distance.
Crocodiles have very slow metabolisms and can survive for months without food.
Crocodiles are often illegally hunted for their skin. A crocodile skin bag can cost more than $10,000. Poaching is threatening the numbers of many crocodile species.