Muggar, Mugger crocodile, Indian, Indus, Persian, Sindhu, Marsh crocodile, Broad-snouted crocodile
The mugger, also known as the marsh crocodile, is a crocodile of medium to large size with the broadest snout of all the living members of the genus Crocodylus. It lives in the Indian subcontinent as well as other countries in southern Asia. They are more alligator-like than any other crocodile, especially in their rounded snout, as most crocodiles have a snout that is pointier. Like most crocodilians, muggers feature a flat head where their eyes, ears and nose are on top. This enables them to see, hear and breathe above water when their bodies are underwater. They have webbed feet but do not use them for swimming, using their strong, flat tail instead. “Mugger” is a corruption from an Indian word that means “water monster.”
The mugger crocodile occurs in the Indian subcontinent as well as surrounding countries: Sri Lanka in the east, Iran in the west, and also Pakistan and Nepal. This species is found in freshwater lakes, marshes and ponds, and has also adapted well to reservoirs, human-made ponds, irrigation canals, and coastal saltwater lagoons. This crocodile likes shallow water of no more than 5m deep, and it avoids fast-flowing rivers. It will sometimes bury itself into the mud to avoid the searing heat in India in the dry season.
Habits and lifestyle
Muggers are highly social and their social behavior includes gregarious behavior, communication, territorial activities, and dominance interactions. Between adults and also adults and their young there is a much vocalization. Most of the socializing takes place during the seasonal mating activities. Body postures like snout raising and tail thrashing are used by males when establishing territories and trying to gain dominance before courtship and mating. Like other crocodile species, activities include basking, diving and swimming. In addition, a unique and important activity is burrowing. Burrows are used for thermo-regulation during hot and cold periods of the day. These crocodiles leave their tunnels at night to seek food. This species can migrate over land for in search of new territory, and they can chase prey for short distances on land. They are adapted better than most other crocodiles to life on land.
bask, congregation, float, nest
Diet and nutrition
The Mugger is primarily carnivorous, eating mostly fish, frogs, crustaceans, mammals, birds, and sometimes monkeys and squirrels.
Mugger crocodiles exhibit a polygynous mating system, in which one male mates with more than one female. Breeding is from February to April. This species is a hole-nesting one. Once a female finds a suitable place for digging her nesting hole, she usually uses it for most if not all of her nests over the years. About one month after mating, 10-48 eggs are laid into the nesting hole, with the average clutch size being 28. Muggers sometimes lay two clutches a year in captivity, but it is not known what happens in the wild. Incubation is for 55-75 days. On hatching, the eggs are carried to nearby water by the mother or sometimes the father. Young crocodiles stay in loosely organized groups along with the adults for as long as one year before dispersing. The females reach maturity at around 6 years old, when they are 1.7 - 2 meters in length, and males are mature at about 10 years old, at 2.6 meters.
The main threats to this animal come from destruction of its habitat and illegal hunting for its skin and for the alternative medicine market. Another threat is egg collection. These crocodiles are also notorious fish stealers, eating ensnared fish, and sometimes they themselves become caught in a fish net and drown.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total mugger crocodile population size is around 5,700-8,700 mature individuals. Specific populations have been estimated in these areas: 3,021 to 4,287 mature individuals in India; 200-300 individuals in Iran; around 600 individuals in Pakistan, with more than 150 individuals are held in captivity; 200 wild individuals in Nepal; and around 2,400-3,500 wild individuals in Sri Lanka. Overall, currently mugger crocodiles are classified as Vulnerable (VU), but their numbers today remain stable.
Fun facts for kids
- This animal’s scientific name of ‘Crocodylus palustris’ has the meaning “crocodile of the marsh”. This is aptly chosen, since this species is very fond of the slow moving waters that are typically found in marshy environments.
- In Northern India this crocodile is so social that it can often be found living alongside another crocodile, the gharial.
- The features of a mugger that define it as a crocodile include that fact that its top and bottom teeth overhang its closed mouth. The American alligator, in comparison, shows only its top teeth when its mouth is closed.
- The webbed feet of crocodiles are not used to propel it through the water, but instead allow it to make sudden moves and fast turns and to initiate swimming. Webbed feet assist the animal in shallower water where it sometimes walks around.
- The only animals that are known to prey on mugger crocodile adults are other crocodiles and tigers.