This reptile is identified by the narrow snout, slopping upward at its tip. The body of the crocodile is covered with scales or scutes, ranging in shape and strength. The Orinoco crocodile is a very unusual reptile, which has no subspecies, meanwhile coming in 3 color types. These are: negro - when the skin of the animal is entirely dark grey; mariposo - when the crocodile is greyish-green with spots on dorsal part; and finally, amarillo - the most common type, exhibiting a light, tan color with dark, sparse patches all over the animal's body. When the crocodile is submerged, the nostrils, which are located at the end of the snout, remain above the water's surface, allowing the animal to breathe. The Orinoco crocodile has short and solid legs as well as long and powerful tail.
Orinoco crocodile occurs in Colombia and Venezuela, being found in the water and quiet lagoons of the Orinoco River basin. As the rainy season comes, the water level rises, and the crocodiles escape to nearby ponds and lakes, staying there until the water recedes.
Habits and lifestyle
The Orinoco crocodiles are social animals, living in dominance hierarchy. These reptiles have a communication system with well-developed responses. Usually, these crocodiles are very slow except with feeding. They feed at night in the water, having coordinated feeding behavior. They approach the river bank to catch terrestrial animals. The Orinoco crocodiles are excellent swimmers. When in water, they propel themselves by their webbed feet as well as power thrusts of their tail. These reptiles (particularly large males) can sometimes be extremely aggressive. During the dry season, they often gather into large groups and travel over land in search of suitable aquatic habitat; when the section of the river within their home range dries up, the animals back away into burrows.
bask, congregation, float, nest
Diet and nutrition
Adult crocodiles are carnivorous, they mainly feed upon birds, fish and small mammals, including capybaras. Juveniles, on the other hand, tend to consume more insects, crabs, snail and fish.
These reptiles have polygynous mating system, where one male mates with a number of females. The mating season occurs in January-February, matching the dry season. As the water level decreases, water-free sand banks appear where the females dig nests, laying from 15 to 70 eggs with an average of 40. The eggs are incubated about 70-90 days, usually hatching by the beginning of the rainy season. When the hatching time approaches, the young appear, giving out chirping sounds. The crocodile mother hears the call of her offspring and helps them come out, introducing the hatchlings to the water. For the first 1 - 3 years of their lives, the young are protected and cared for by their mother.
Currently, the Orinoco crocodile is hunted for its meat and teeth that are used for medical purposes. In certain areas of their range, the animals are killed by local people, suffering from destruction of their natural habitat as well as collection of their eggs and juveniles. The Orinoco crocodile also competes with the spectacle caiman that inhabits the same area.
The exact number of their population in the wild is unknown for today, varying from 250 to 1500 individuals. On the IUCN Red List, the Orinoco crocodile is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) species.
Due to feeding upon a wide variety of animals, these predators play an important link in the food chain of their habitat by balancing and maintaining the health of the local ecosystem.
Fun facts for kids
- The Orinoco crocodile is the largest predator, found in South America.
- These reptiles exist at least 240 million years.
- The common English idiom "shed crocodile tears" means a false, insincere display of crying. When crocodiles eat their prey, they swallow a huge amount of air, getting to their glands and generating tears, due to which the animal seems to cry.
- These crocodiles have a highly developed sense of smell, helping them define the hatching time of the eggs. This amazing ability also allows them to perceive the smell of prey at a long distance.
- On both sides of the bottom jaw, the animal has large and prominent fourth teeth, which fit into notches on the upper jaw, remaining visible even with a closed mouth. Altogether, the Orinoco crocodile has 68 teeth.