(Crocodylus acutus)
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Geographic range: 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 the female.
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 Celsius.

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 rivers

Conservation: Status:

IUCN: Endangered

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.


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