What is a Crocodilian?

Are you ready to talk about some real LIVE DINOSAURS?!? Nope, this isn't the bird center....but it's the next best thing...crocodilians! So what exactly are crocodilians...are they all just crocodiles? Well, crocodiles are definitely part of the family...but there's a few more! And while birds may be the closest living relatives we have in the dino family, crocodiles come in at 2nd place, having first appeared 83.5 million years ago towards the end of the Cretaceous period. So what are all the current animals in the crocodilian family?

  • Crocodiles
  • Alligators
  • Caimans
  • Gharial
  • False Gharial

All of these animals look pretty similar, with that long reptilian body, ferocious fangs, and strong tails. Caimans are like a smaller version of an alligator, usually reaching between 3 - 8 feet long. Gharials & False Gharials are noticeably different because of their long and thin snouts. They all share many traits such as moving on land while also being great swimmers, having thick skin, and extremely powerful bites. Crocodilians are all in the family of reptiles so they share in common reptile traits as well - they lay eggs, and are ectothermic. While these animals are definitely unique and beautiful, they are not the group you want to come across in the wild - typically they are territorial and solitary, and eight species of crocodilians are known for their attacks on humans, with the Nile Crocodile being the biggest culprit. A few other unique facts about crocodilians would be...

  • Crocodilians have the most complex circulatory system of all vertebrates.
  • Generally, they are stalk-and-ambush predators, and small animals can be killed from whiplash as the crocodilian shakes their head.
  • Most crocodilians are towards the top of the food chain in their habitats, and many are apex predators.
  • The largest crocodilian, the Saltwater Crocodile, is also the largest reptile on the planet and one of the most fearsome predators.

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