Nearctic, Neotropical: Found in coastal wetlands along the Pacific
Ocean from western Mexico south to Ecuador and along the Atlantic
Ocean from Guatemala north to the extreme southern tip of Florida.
This species is also present on caribbean islands (Cuba, Dominican
Republic, Haiti, Jamaica).
Physical characteristics: C.
acutus belongs to the larger crocodilian species. Males reach
5 meters, with reports of 6 and even 7 meter animals (unconfirmed).
Dorsal armour is irregular and much reduced in comparison with other
species. Young specimens are distinctly greenish, with black markings.
The half-grown individuals and young adults are olive, while the very
old specimens dull gray.
Food habits: The American crocodile
feeds largely on fish and other small water animals. Some large individuals
may also feed on small mammals, birds and turtles. In Florida, some
are known to eat bass, tarpon and mullet.
Reproduction: Males and females mate
with several different partners during their mating period. The female
tries to get a strong male's attention through visual, tactile, olfactory
and audible signals, which are basically incitement behaviors. The
courtship displays are initiated by the female, who must reduce the
aggressiveness of the male whose territory she has invaded. The female
exposes her throat by lifting her head. This display signals peaceful
intent. At first, a male will seem indifferent, but a persistent female
will nuzzle the sides of the male's head and neck until the males
starts responding by caressing the female. When it is time to couple,
the female and male orient themselves side to side. The male presses
down the female's head with its own and climbs on her. In a strange
contortion their swollen cloaks make contact and the male organ enters
Female lays a clutch of as many as 40 eggs, of which only a few survive
to become adults. The female guards the nest, assists in hatching,
and both parents may guard hatchlings.
Behavior: Adults maintain dens near
nest sites, usually burrows dug 3-9 m into creek banks, with the entrance
at or below the waterline. The majority of females build mound nests
of soil or sand, but some individuals excavate hole nests. The size
of nest mounds increase as the females increase in size.
Crocodiles move inland during winter. They become torpid if confined
to water colder than 18 degrees Celsius. Nests fail below 25 degrees
Habitat: Tropical wetlands. The American crocodile is found
in mangrove-lined saltwater estuaries and nests along the banks of
small streams. The American crocodile spends a considerable amount
of time in saltwater estuaries. Adult crocodiles can survive hypersaline
conditions, but juveniles can not tolerate this condition. Although
the American crocodile is not considered marine or a pelagic animal,
it has been sighted far out at sea and has traveled hundreds of miles
across the ocean to reach some isolated volcanic islands. In Florida
these animals have also been found living and breeding in the cooling
canals of a nuclear power plant, where they are free of human disturbances.
Biomes: tropical coastal, freshwater
U.S. ESA: Endangered
CITES: Appendix I
American crocodiles were proclaimed endangered on December 18,
1979. The reasons for this status are mainly due to the habitat
loss and hide-hunting. Crocodiles have suffered habitat loss due
to the increasing urban development in south Florida in Dade and
Monroe counties. American crocodiles were also the prey of the hide
industry. Many hunters killed the crocodile for their hides to make
belts and handbags. Since hide hunting has been eliminated, now
direct destruction is mostly due to accidental encounters with fishing
nets, or sometimes with cars or boats.