Crocodile skin makes a valuable leather that people use to make belts, shoes and bags. However, so many crocodiles were being killed for their skin that many types of crocodiles were placed on lists of endangered species in the 1970s. The attempts to preserve them seem to have been successful, at least in Australia. Now, crocodiles live a long natural life, and they've been known to live a very long time, indeed.
Crocodiles, which have the scientific name of crocodylidae, are large reptiles that live everywhere except in Europe and Antarctica. They are dangerous predators found in wetlands or in larger bodies of both fresh and salt water.
Newly hatched crocodiles are about 9 inches long. They grow to an adult length of between 7 and 15 feet. The front of a crocodile's snout is pointed, in contrast to that of an alligator. They have an extra long lower fourth tooth. This tooth fits into a notch in its top jaw.
A crocodile's webbed feet keeps them on top of marshy land when they walk, which is important since they have to get out of the water to eat whatever prey they catch. In the water, a palatial valve covers the opening in their throat so that water doesn't rush in when their mouth is open. They have another valve on top of each nostril which, like their eyes, are on the top of their head. They stick out of the water when the beast is submerged, just below the surface.
Crocodiles lay their large eggs in nests that they build in sand or out of twigs and leaves. Some species protect their nests but the level of care varies from species to species. American crocodiles lay around 28 eggs, which hatch after 75 to 80 days. Other crocodile species have longer incubation periods, with the longest beign about 105 days. The emergent baby crocodiles have an egg tooth on the outside of the snout, which nearly disappears soon after it hatches. This is like a church key can opener that helps it to break open the egg shell when hatching.
Crocodiles are known to live between 50 and 60 years. Their age can be estimated because every year their bones and teeth develop new growth rings that can be counted to determine an approximate age. Field biologists who study crocodiles have recorded various individual animals which, along with the records of crocodiles kept in zoos, help to verify the life span. The oldest crocodile on record was one that lived in a Russian zoo. No one knows exactly how old it was when it was captured in the 1890s. They think it was close to 10 years old then. This animal died in 1997 so it was more than 100 years old.
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