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Saltwater Crocodiles

SALTWATER CROCODILE (Crocodylus porosus)

Modified from Wikipedia; original image by
Molly Ebersold, 2004
Crocodiles are big, scaly animals that live in the warm parts of the world and can eat just about anything. Saltwater crocodiles are like regular crocodiles only bigger, hungrier, and arguably more impressive.

Appearance

Saltwater crocodiles are not only the largest living crocodilians, but also the largest living diapsids by weight (diapsids are a group that also includes lizards, snakes, turtles, and birds). While not as long as the reticulated python or as adorable as the spectacled caiman, they make up for length and cuteness with mass, topping out at around 1200 kg (~2600 lbs for my friends south of the border). For reference, if you've ever seen a cow and thought "damn, that's a big animal", you should know that the biggest bulls are only around 1100 kg, and also that crocodiles eat cows, so fuck you. They also have bony plates on their body called gastralia and point spiky bits on their tails which remind me of the humble Stegosaurus.

Points: 1/1

Behaviour

The reason why saltwater crocodiles (also called "salties" by Australians and now also me) are absolutely devastating predators, apart from their ungodly size, is that they are fast, agile, and smart as fuck. The reason we think of them as these big lazy fuckwads that lie around in the sun all day with their mouths open is because when they're on the hunt, you can't fucking see them at all. They'll lay in the shallows near the waters edge and when some unsuspecting whatever comes near, bam, they run out, grab the thing, and drag it back into the water. They have swimming speeds of up to 30 kph (18 mph in American) and can run almost as fast as a horse on land (The Sea). Basically, if you see a saltie you're already fucked. But because they're masters of camouflage and stealth, you might be fucked even if you don't see one. You might be fucked right now.

Points: 1/1

Distribution

Salties haunt the coastlines of southern Asia and Oceania. They are most plentiful in India and Northern Australia, although they have gone locally extinct in many countries due to habitat loss (Crocodilian Species List). They live in coastal estuaries, rivers, and swamps, so their habitat is a little too specific. But, they do manage to live on more than one continent so I'll give them half a point.

Points: 0.5/1

Ecology

Lions are called the kings of the jungle, but that title more rightly belongs to salties. Neither animal really lives in the jungle, so instead of just arbitrarily crowning animals monarchs of places, why not crown the saltwater crocodile king of everywhere because they're apex predators who can kill and eat literally anything including, but not limited to, monkeys, cows, sharks, and tigers (The Telegraph). Fucking. Tigers. Jesus christ. They could probably eat a lion too, who knows. Also they do live in jungley areas like mangrove swamps. Salties are the king and the jungle is their throne.

Points: 1/1

Evolution

Back in the Jurassic and the Cretaceous, the top predators in the world were the dinosaurs you know and love. But in the Triassic, before the dinosaurs' rise to power, the big bad predators were the Rauisuchians: massive, terrifying crocodilians which walked on two legs and probably ate the piddly dinosaurs that were roaming around at the time (Nat Geo). Today, salties eat birds (among other things), which are technically dinosaurs, so they haven't forgotten their badass heritage.

Points: 1/1

Life History

Like other crocodilians, salties are very long lived and slow to reach maturity (Crocodilian Biology Database). They experience high infant mortality because their eggs and babies are small and vulnerable to predation by all kinds of animals, including monitor lizards and other crocodiles (Magnusson 1982, see also this video). This usually spells death for a species in this day and age because humans kill the shit out of stuff before the population has a chance to recover. But salties give the finger to K-selection strategy and just power through (IUCN). God speed, you magnificent fucking monsters.

Points: 1/1

Interaction with Humans

Remember three seconds ago when I said salties can kill and eat any animal they can get ahold of? Yeah, that includes humans. Salties are one of the deadliest animals for people, killing an estimated 300 people between 2008 and 2013 (CrocBITE). For perspective, an angry mob in Indonesia last year killed 292 crocs in a sanctuary for revenge over the course of a day (Washington Post). As much as I hate to do this, I'm going to have to give the salties a zero in this category.

Points: 0/1

Final Score: 5.5/7
Verdict: Saltwater crocodiles were designed by a vengeful god as the ultimate killing machines on land and in water, and you will respect them

References


  • Britton A. 2012. Current distribution of Crocodylus porosus. Crocodilian.com
  • Britton A. 2012. FAQ: How long do crocodiles live for? Crocodilian.com
  • CrocBITE. N.d. About human crocodile conflict. CrocBITE: Worldwide Crocodilian Attack Database.
  • Crocodile Specialist Group. 1996. Crocodylus porosus (Salt-water Crocodile). IUCN Redlist.
  • Magnusson WE. 1982. Mortality of eggs of the crocodile Crocodylus porosus in Northern Australia. Journal of Herpetology. 16(2): 121-130
  • Nelson D. 2012. Fifteen-foot Bengali crocodile claims king of the jungle title from tiger. The Telegraph
  • Perun B. 2017. How fast can a crocodile run? Blane Perun's The Sea.
  • Switek B. 2013. Poposaurus, Postosuchus and the dinosaur mimic croc walk. National Geographic.
  • Wootsen Jr., CR. 2018. A crocodile killed an Indonesian man - so his village slaughtered nearly 300 crocodiles. Washington Post.
  • Yan B. 2018. Saltwater crocodile eats tail of crocodile whole. Caters Clips. Youtube [video]

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