Special Sub-Topic: A Visit to the Crocoseum
|Eager to see the crocs and gators, you demand to first be taken to the biggest reptiles in the Crocoseum. You are taken to an enclosure containing the appropriately named, Big Baban and Massive Mike! You are told that these two are members of the largest species of crocodile. Can you name that species? |
Saltwater crocodile. The male saltwater crocodile can exceed 20ft in length, making it the largest crocodile in the world today! Because crocodiles are one of the most sexually dimorphic animals, the size difference between males and females is huge, and Big Baban can only grow up to 14ft.
Australians commonly refer to saltwater crocodiles as "salties." These crocs are very wide-ranging and, as well as in the Australian waters, can be found off India, South-East Asia, and far across the Indian Ocean towards the East coast of Africa. The reason for this wide distribution of saltwater crocodiles is that they are such strong swimmers.
Being such large, powerful predators, saltwater crocodiles can take on just about any animal they comes across. They have been known to eat animals from wild boar, to sharks, to humans.
|You notice many protective barriers around the enclosures of the Crocoseum, and after our next crocodile, you'll see why. TCEB the Terrific is known in the Crocoseum as a great performer. Many come to see him leap to great heights out of the water and perform his death rolls. Can you tell me what the main purpose of a death roll is? |
To rip off chunks of flesh. Crocodiles are well known for their aggression and gruesome methods of attack. Typically, crocodiles have their nostrils and eyes at the same horizontal level, allowing them to watch prey for long periods of time. This is also advantageous as very little of the crocodile's head is exposed, meaning it can approach drinking animals without much notice. The croc will then launch itself at the animal, usually grasping the neck or a limb in its powerful jaws. It is now that the great reptile will begin the infamous death roll.
The adaptations of the crocodile have allowed it to become one of the most successful predators on Earth. This helps to explain why crocodiles have remained relatively unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs!
|You now approach the next enclosure in the Australian Crocoseum. The sign reads "Say hello to Exit and Madkeen." You are told that they are locals (i.e. from Australia), but you are not told what species they are. What species are Exit and Madkeen most likely to be? |
Freshwater crocodile. Yes, along with saltwater crocodiles, freshwater crocodiles can be found in Northern Australia. Whilst saltwater crocs are known locally as "salties," freshwater crocs are known as, you guessed it, "freshies."
It is relatively simple to tell freshwater crocs from their saltwater brothers. Male "freshies" struggle to reach 10ft in length, and so are dwarfed by the male saltwater crocodile's 20+ft. Also, although both species are found in Northern Australia, freshwater crocs are more likely to found at inland locations, whereas "salties" are typically found of the coast and across the sea to South-East Asia. Finally, the coloration is a hint as to which Australian croc is which, with saltwater crocodiles being much darker than freshwater ones.
|Next in the Crocoseum you come to Alex and Alifin, the alligators. You are told that there are only two species of alligator - the Chinese and the American. Alex and Alifin belong to the latter species. In which US national park are these gators commonly found? |
Everglades National Park. Touring the Crocoseum, you begin to pick up some random scraps of crocodilian trivia. Here, you learn some of the key differences between crocodiles and alligators.
In terms of physical appearance, there are several differing features. Alligators are generally darker than crocodiles, usually grey, olive, or black instead of the typical grey/green skin of the crocodile. Also, the characteristic "smile" of the croc is not seen on alligators, whose jaw structures allow their mouths to fully close. Moreover, alligators have U-shaped snouts, whereas most crocodiles have V-shaped snouts.
Some also claim that there are noticeable differences in character between the two crocodilians. It is said that alligators are generally less aggressive than crocodiles, and while this may be true, gators do not shy away from a fight. It has been said that crocodiles start fights, but alligators finish them.
|Still touring the Crocoseum, you come to the next display. The star of this show is Sierot the sarcosuchus. However, he is slightly different than the others you have seen so far. How? |
He is a skeleton. Sierot isn't actually a member of the order Crocodilia at all. He is, however, a distant relative of the crocodile.
Sadly, the sarcosuchus became extinct long ago, and Sierot is one of the few fossilised specimens left.
As well as being extinct, the sarcosuchus is noted for being one of the largest crocodile-like reptiles that has ever lived, growing up to twice the length of modern day saltwater crocodiles (the largest living crocodile).
|MIMO the Siamese croc is the inhabitant of the Crocoseum's next enclosure. Siamese crocodiles are fairly easy going, enjoying slow waters and eating just about anything. Although MIMO has a very broad palate, which food would he mostly eat in the wild? |
Fish. MIMO the Siamese statistician can be found in the waters off Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
These crocs are classed as critically endangered, and little is known about them due to lack of scientific studies. Their physical appearance shows that as well as their usual fish diet, they regularly eat snakes, mammals, insects and many other animals. This is suggested by their broad snout.
|Feisty Flopsy is next on our tour of the Crocoseum. Flopsy is a Nile crocodile and she uses her cone-shaped teeth to grip prey and tear off chunks of meat. In her feisty attempts to gain a meal, Flopsy may occasionally break a tooth. Tell me, is she able to re-grow the teeth she loses? |
y. The cone-shaped teeth Flopsy possesses are adapted to tear, rather than chew. Being able to rip off manageable bites whilst feeding is essential to a croc's digestion. Stones which have been swallowed by crocodiles along with their very strong stomach acid helps to digest these chunks of meat.
Tackling some huge prey (e.g. wildebeest), crocodiles may often lose teeth during the struggle. Therefore, not only can crocs re-grow teeth, but at a rapid rate - young crocodiles can grow up to one new tooth per socket per month. However, the rate decreases as the crocodile ages.
|The people at the Crocoseum are very excited today, as there are some new hatchlings in our next enclosure. Who better to teach them the ways of life than our next crocodile, their mother, Jabberwok? Most baby crocs can break their way out of an egg, but if one was not able to, how would Jabberwok react? |
She would gently break the shell in her jaws. Although the jaws of a crocodile are amongst the most powerful (if not THE most powerful) in the animal kingdom, they can use them in a very delicate manner.
The reason that most baby crocs are able to break free is due to the "egg tooth" they possess. Those who struggle can call to their mother from within the shell. After hatching, the baby crocs can be safely carried in the mother's jaws to wherever they need to be. However, in the wild, the mother is not able to defend her offspring 24/7, so many are eaten by birds or other crocodiles.
The temperature at which crocodile eggs are kept actually determines the gender of the hatchling.
|We come to our next enclosure in the Crocoseum to see Gary and Glenda, the gharials. These are certainly two impressive looking creatures. What makes these two crocodilians so different to the others you have seen so far? |
Gharials have much thinner snouts. Gharials are found in the sub-continent of India as well as surrounding areas.
Although the sharp-toothed, fearsome looking gharial may give the impression that it is a man-eater, their thin, elongated snout is actually adapted for catching and eating fish. The structure of the gharial's jaw prevents it from eating any large prey. In place of the conical teeth possessed by alligators and crocodiles, the gharials have thin, razor sharp teeth. There is no need for the conical teeth as gharials do not have to tear at their prey. Instead, the fish are usually swallowed whole. Finally, the thin snout is a prime weapon in catching fish, as it allows the gharial to snap its jaws shut with minimum water resistance.
Another characteristic feature of the gharial is the bulbous growth on the end of its snout. This is mainly for producing sounds, allowing them to communicate with each other. Also, it is a way of attracting females during mating.
|Our next crocodile was found in a city, eating domesticated pets! This has led to him gaining the nickname, "Terrible Tim." The people at the Crocoseum would like to know how old this new edition is. They say that they can tell his age by counting the number of rings on small bony plates on his back. What are these boney plates usually known as? |
Osteoderms. Because the osteoderms of the crocodile have an annual growth of rings, the number of rings allows you to find the age of the croc. This is very similar to the method of determining the age of trees.
Crocodile skin is considered one of the most luxurious items in fashion. However, the barbaric nature of obtaining the skin has lead to many animal rights protests and the sales of crocodile skin products being banned in many countries.
As well as the attractive patterns found on many crocodilians, the elasticity of some skin (in particular that of the saltwater crocodile) means that it is very versatile and can be used to make many accessories.
The skin of the crocodilians is extremely tough, helping to reduce injuries during struggles with large prey or in fights with other crocs. This toughness is due to it being made up from the protein, keratin - the same protein found in hair, nails and hooves.
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