Saltwater Crocodile

The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), also known as the estuarine crocodile, Indo-Pacific crocodile, marine crocodile, sea-going crocodile or informally as saltie, is the largest of all living reptiles, as well as the largest terrestrial and riparian predator in the world. Males of this species can reach sizes up to 6.3 m (20.7 ft) and weigh up to 1,360 kg (3,000 lb). However, an adult male saltwater crocodile is generally between 4.3 and 5.2 m (14 and 17 ft) in length and weighs 400 to 1,000 kg (880–2,200 lb), rarely growing larger. Females are much smaller and often do not surpass 3 m (9.8 ft). As its name implies, this species of crocodile can live in salt water, but usually resides in mangrove swamps, estuaries, deltas, lagoons, and lower stretches of rivers. They have the broadest distribution of any modern crocodile, ranging from the eastern coast of India, throughout most of Southeast Asia, and northern Australia.

The saltwater crocodile is a formidable and opportunistic hypercarnivorous, apex, ambush predator. It is capable of taking almost any animal that enters its territory, including other apex predators such as sharks, mammals and humans. Due to their size and distribution, saltwater crocodiles are the most dangerous extant crocodilian to humans.

There are mainly three species of Indian Crocodile, namely, Mugger or Fresh Water crocodile, Estuarine crocodile and Gharial. All the three species were found in India.

Mugger crocodile belongs to the Crocodylidae Family and is scientifically known as Crocodylus palustris. Adult Mugger crocodiles of India are bright olive in color, while the young ones are on the paler side. The entire body is spotted with black and scaled. Outer toes as well as fingers are webbed at the base.

Mugger crocodiles of India are known by a number of other names also, like Iranian crocodiles, Marsh crocodiles, Indian Swamp crocodiles and Persian crocodiles.

Marsh crocodile is a freshwater species, which primarily occupies Indian lakes, rivers and marshes. It prefers slow-moving, shallower bodies of water and may be found in man-made reservoirs and irrigation canals also. Occasionally, the Mugger crocodiles of India may inhabit saltwater lagoons.

English: Indian gharial, Indian gavial, long-snouted crocodile. Hindi: Gharial. Bengali: Mecho kumhir. Oriya: Thantia kumhira, male: Ghadiala, female: Thantiana. Bihari: Nakar, Bashsoolia nakar. Maximum reported length 6.75 m. Believed to attain a length of up to 8 m.

Northern India subcontinent: In India, they are found within the river systems of the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, and the Mahanadi, with small populations in the Kaladan.

Riverine – more adapted to an aquatic lifestyle in the calmer areas of deep, fast-moving rivers. The gharial is poorly equipped for locomotion on land. It usually only leaves the water to bask and nest, both of which usually occur on sandbanks.

Confined to the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Mahanadi river systems in the Indian subcontinent. Once very common, increasing human use of rivers has restricted the gharial to a few remaining wild stretches of it former habitat. Presently the main habitat is the Chambal, Girwa, Rapti and Narayani rivers of the Ganges system. The species is now rare and endangered.

English: Saltwater Crocodile, Estuarine Crocodile. Oriya: Baula kumbhira, Kuji Khumbhiora. Hindi, Gujarat, Marathi: Muggar. Bengali: Kuhmir. Kannada: Mossalay. Tamil: Muthalai. Telugu: Moseli. Malayalam: Muthala, Cheengkani.

Probably the largest of the present day reptiles. The largest skull available measures 1 metre in length and it is believed to have belonged to a specimen of about 7 metres in length. Specimens over 5 m in length have been obtained in the Sunderbans and in Orissa river estuaries but are now exceedingly rare. A 4.5 m long captive specimen weighed 408 kg.

In India, the estuarine crocodile is restricted in its distribution to the tidal estuaries, marine swamps, coastal brackish water lakes and lower reaches of the larger rivers. The saltwater crocodile has a vast geographical range that extends from Cochin on the west coast of India to the Sunderbans in West Bengal and to the Andaman Islands. Single individuals can be found some distance from their usual range as they can travel long distances (over a thousand km) by sea. Barnacles have been found on the scales of a few stray individuals. This sea-faring ability probably helps to explain their wide distribution.

The primary behaviour to distinguish the saltwater crocodile from other crocodiles is its tendency to occupy salt water. Though other crocodiles also have salt glands that enable them to survive in saltwater, a trait which alligators do not possess, most other species do not venture out to sea except during extreme conditions.

While most crocodilians are social animals sharing basking spots and food, saltwater crocodiles are more territorial and are less tolerant of their own kind; adult males will share territory with females, but drive off rival males. Saltwater crocodiles mate in the wet season, laying eggs in a nest consisting of a mound of mud and vegetation. The female guards the nest and hatchlings from predators.

Generally very lethargic, a trait which helps it survive months at a time without food, the saltwater crocodile will usually loiter in the water or bask in the sun during much of the day, preferring to hunt at night. A study of seasonal saltwater crocodile behaviour in Australia indicated that they are more active and more likely to spend time in the water during the Australian summer; conversely, they are less active and spend relatively more time basking in the sun during the winter. Saltwater crocodiles, however, are among the most active of all crocodilians, spending more time cruising and active, especially in water. They are much less terrestrial than most species of crocodiles, spending less time on land except for basking. At times, they tend to spend weeks at sea in search of land and in some cases, barnacles have been observed growing on crocodile scales, indicative of the long periods they spend at sea.