We were traveling through the Wonderopolis swamp the other day, just looking for some frogs to join us in a game of jump rope. We stumbled upon an alligator and a crocodile playing cards. We chatted for just a bit about the weather.
As we were leaving them to continue our search, we received an unexpected send-off that proved an old adage true and brought tears to our eyes. As we departed, they said:
Alligator: See you later!
Crocodile: After a while!
Speaking of crocodiles, we couldn’t help but notice that the crocodile we met had big, strong jaws and razor-sharp teeth. We got to WONDERing about crocodiles and thought we’d share with you what we learned.
The word “crocodile” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “lizard.” The American crocodile is no ordinary lizard, though. In fact, crocodiles have more in common with birds and dinosaurs than they do modern-day reptiles!
Among the largest of the world’s crocodiles, the American crocodile can grow to be as long as 20 feet! It can be found in North, Central, and South America. Although a few American crocodiles live in southern Florida, most of them live in the swamps, creeks, ponds, and wetlands of southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
The American crocodile is now considered an endangered species. Experts believe their numbers have decreased over the years due to two main factors: being illegally hunted for their tough, scaly skins and loss of habitat as swamps have been converted to other uses.
American crocodiles feed mainly on small mammals, birds, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects. Their large jaws are incredibly powerful. With the strongest bite of any animal, a crocodile can bite down with a force of over 5,000 pounds per square inch.
How powerful is that? How about over 10 times more powerful than the bite of a great white shark? It’s true! But don’t worry. American crocodiles aren’t overly aggressive. They tend to be shy and stay away from humans, who rarely see them in the wild.
American crocodiles are very successful predators. Their long, streamlined bodies allow them to swim very quickly to catch prey. They can also move very quickly on land over short distances. An Australian freshwater crocodile was measured traveling 11 miles per hour on land. Some crocodiles have even been known to attack and kill sharks!