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Who's Who of Crocodilians

American Alligator  

American Alligator
Alligator mississippiensis

Diet: Insects, snakes, turtles, snails, slow-moving fish, small mammals and birds. Large adults may eat small calves and, very rarely, people.

Habitat: Marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes, tidal areas, and, rarely, the ocean

Distribution: Southeastern U.S.

Conservation: Narrowly escaped extinction thanks to strict laws prohibiting hunting, but habitat destruction now poses a considerable threat

Size: Up to 13 feet

Chinese Alligator  

Chinese Alligator
Alligator sinensis

Diet: Snails, clams, rats, and insects

Habitat: Marshlands, ponds, and lakes. They use caves or burrows, especially in the cold and dry months.

Distribution: The lower Yangtze River and its tributaries

Conservation: The world's most endangered crocodilian, due to habitat loss, wetland development, dam-building, and flooding

Size: Usually about 6.5 feet in length

Spectacled/common Caiman  

Spectacled/Common Caiman
Caiman crocodilus

Diet: Smaller caiman eat insects, crabs and other invertebrates; larger ones eat water snails and fish.

Habitat: Almost all natural open wetland and riverine habitats

Distribution: Southern Mexico to northern Argentina

Conservation: Population has diminished from serious hunting that began about 1950, but populations remain in good standing

Size: Up to eight feet

Broad-snouted Caiman  

Broad-snouted Caiman
Caiman latirostris

Diet: The young eat insects, crustaceans; adults eat snails, fish, mammals, and birds.

Habitat: Shallow freshwater swamps or sometimes cattle ponds and heavily polluted rivers near cities

Distribution: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay

Conservation: Hunting and habitat destruction threaten this species, whose skin is in high demand for tanning purposes.

Size: Males up to 10 feet, females to 6.5 feet

Yacare Caiman  

Yacare Caiman
Caiman yacare

Diet: Aquatic invertebrates, particularly snails, and vertebrates such as fish

Habitat: Wetlands, rivers and lakes

Distribution: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay

Conservation: Population low due to hunting

Size: Up to about 10 feet

Black  Caiman  

Black Caiman
Melanosuchus niger

Diet: Small caiman eat invertebrates and fish. Larger caiman eat mostly fish; the largest ones consume mammals, reptiles, even other caiman.

Habitat: Flooded forests around lakes and slow-moving rivers

Distribution: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru

Conservation: Population reduced by an estimated 99 percent in the last century. Illegal hunting and habitat destruction impede repopulation.

Size: The largest predator in South America, it can grow to over 20 feet.

Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman  

Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman
Paleosuchus palpebrosus

Diet: Invertebrates and fish

Habitat: Rivers, streams, and flooded forests around major lakes

Distribution: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela

Conservation: Since its skin is not in high demand, its population is stable, but habitat destruction and pollution pose threats.

Size: Males grow to about five feet, females to about four feet.

Smooth-fronted/Schneider's Dwarf Caiman  

Smooth-fronted/Schneider's Dwarf Caiman
Paleosuchus trigonatus

Diet: Mammals such as porcupines and pacas (a rodent)

Habitat: Mound nests along small rainforest streams

Distribution: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela

Conservation: Threats include habitat loss and pollution caused by gold mining.

Size: Males grow up to 5.5 feet, females to 4.5 feet.

American Crocodile  

American Crocodile
Crocodylus acutus

Diet: Hatchlings eat aquatic and terrestrial insects; juveniles live on fish, frogs, turtles, birds, small mammals, and aquatic invertebrates; adults consume larger mammals and birds as well as the food groups eaten by their young.

Habitat: Freshwater and brackish coastal waters

Distribution: Southern Florida, southern Central America, northernmost South America, and various Caribbean islands, including the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Margarita, Martinique, and Trinidad

Conservation: Threatened by hunting for their high-quality skin and by habitat destruction

Size: 20 feet or more

Slender-snouted Crocodile  

Slender-snouted Crocodile
Crocodylus cataphractus

Diet: Crabs, shrimps, snakes, frogs, fish

Habitat: Freshwater habitats, sometimes coastal areas

Distribution: West and central Africa

Conservation: Populations seem to be declining in many areas and may be extinct in Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Zambia.

Size: 10-13 feet

Orinoco Crocodile  

Orinoco Crocodile
Crocodylus intermedius

Diet: Fish, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles

Habitat: Freshwater river habitats

Distribution: Colombia and Venezuela

Conservation: Intense illegal hunting and habitat loss pose the gravest threats.

Size: Up to 20 feet

Australian Freshwater/Johnston's Crocodile  

Australian Freshwater/Johnston's Crocodile
Crocodylus johnstoni

Diet: Fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals

Habitat: Upstream freshwater habitats

Distribution: Northern Australia

Conservation: Populations depleted by hunting have largely recovered, though its habitat continues to disappear.

Size: Up to 10 feet

Philippine Crocodile  

Philippine Crocodile
Crocodylus mindorensis

Diet: Aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates

Habitat: Freshwater areas such as small lakes, swampy depressions, marshes, and tributaries of large rivers

Distribution: Philippine islands

Conservation: Once found throughout the Philippines, this species has a dangerously low population.

Size: Up to 10 feet

Morelet's Crocodile  

Morelet's Crocodile
Crocodylus moreletii

Diet: Snails, mud turtles, small mammals, catfish. Juveniles eat insects, snails, slugs, and other small animals.

Habitat: Mostly freshwater areas, sometimes brackish water around coastal areas

Distribution: Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico

Conservation: Hunters seeking their high-quality skin drastically depleted the population mid-century.

Size: 10-11.5 feet

Nile Crocodile  

Nile Crocodile
Crocodylus niloticus

Diet: Juveniles eat insects, spiders, frogs and probably snakes, lizards, and other small vertebrates; adults eat fish, antelope, zebra, warthogs, large domestic animals, and occasionally humans.

Habitat: Freshwater areas and some coastal habitats in Africa

Distribution: Tropical and southern Africa and Madagascar

Conservation: Legal protection has helped diminishing populations recover from hunting, but the species still suffers in central and western countries.

Size: Up to 16 feet

Croc bite: Displays a hierarchy of feeding order, with dominant crocs getting more, even during cooperative feeding

New Guinea Crocodile  

New Guinea Crocodile
Crocodylus novaeguineae

Diet: Insects, amphibians, snakes, birds, and fish

Habitat: Mainly freshwater habitats

Distribution: New Guinea

Conservation: Recently recovered from population depletion, today it benefits from low human population and large areas of wetland habitat.

Size: Up to 13 feet

Mugger/Marsh Crocodile  

Mugger/Marsh Crocodile
Crocodylus palustris

Diet: Juveniles eat insects and small vertebrates. Adults live on frogs, snakes, small mammals, and birds; the largest ones dine on deer and buffalo.

Habitat: Freshwater habitats

Distribution: Bangladesh, Iran, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Conservation: Threatened by habitat loss, with the Bangladesh and Myanmar populations possibly already extinct

Size: Reaching to over 13 feet

Estuarine/Saltwater/Indopacific Crocodile  

Estuarine/Saltwater/Indopacific Crocodile
Crocodylus porosus

Diet: Juveniles eat insects, crabs, shrimp, mudskippers, lizards, and snakes; adults dine on birds, fish, and mammals.

Habitat: Brackish and freshwater areas

Distribution: Most widely distributed of crocodilians, it lives throughout tropical regions of Asia and the Pacific.

Conservation: Its hide is the most valuable of any crocodile. Habitat loss and hunting imperil some populations.

Size: Largest crocodile, 23 feet or more. Some in captivity weigh up to 2,200 pounds.

Cuban Crocodile  

Cuban Crocodile
Crocodylus rhombifer

Diet: Fish, turtles, small mammals

Habitat: Freshwater swamps

Distribution: Cuba

Conservation: One of the most threatened New World crocodilian species, primarily because of its small distribution

Size: About 11.5 feet


Siamese Crocodile
Crocodylus siamensis

Diet: Mainly fish, but also amphibians, reptiles and perhaps small mammals

Habitat: Tropical freshwater lakes, rivers, and marshlands

Distribution: Southeast Asian tropical lowlands

Conservation: Possibly extinct in the wild

Size: No longer than 13 feet

Dwarf Crocodile  

Dwarf Crocodile
Osteolaemus tetraspis

Diet: Crabs, frogs, and fish

Habitat: Swamps and slow-moving freshwater in rain forests

Distribution: West and west-central Africa

Conservation: This widely distributed species is probably not threatened, though information on populations is scant.

Size: Reaches 6.5 feet

False Gharial/Gavial  

False Gharial/Gavial
Tomistoma schlegelii

Diet: Small vertebrates and fish

Habitat: Freshwater habitats, swamps, lakes, and rivers

Distribution: Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and possibly Sulawesi

Conservation: According to the few studies done, population is very low

Size: 13 feet or more


Gavialis gangeticus

Diet: Fish (cannot eat large animals because its jaws are too slim)

Habitat: Calmer stretches of deep, fast-moving rivers

Distribution: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar

Conservation: Nearly extinct by the 1970s, it survives primarily in protected areas

Size: Up to 21 feet

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