Nile Crocodile Facts
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The Nile crocodile is among-st Africa’s most feared predators. And with good reason. It has one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom and can take down a grown human being with ease. Experts say that a crocodile’s bite exerts a force that is eight times greater than that of the fearsome Great White.
Crocs are equipped with a four chambered heart, an unusual feature because birds and mammals usually possess this. This aids the crocs in being able to equalize pressure during long deep dives in deep water. Crocs can also stay under water for 30 minutes if they are threatened but can slow their heart rates right down and if they have no activity, this can even be extended to two hours long.
Crocs eat a variety of food, whilst juveniles are restricted to small aquatic invertebrates and insects, larger crocodiles eat large vertebrates, antelope, buffalo, young hippo, large cats and even younger crocs. Their diets however consist mainly out of fish.
Along with hippos and lions, crocodiles account for perhaps a few hundred deaths and disappearances each year, although exact figures are very hard to verify. Nile crocodiles will also often scavenge from carcasses, together with a number of other animals, all of which seem to tolerate each other’s presence. Several prey animals have been found wedged under submerged branches and stones, leading to reports that the crocodiles store unwanted prey here until a later date. Some claim that it is necessary for the prey to decompose before the crocodiles are able to tear portions of flesh off, but this is unlikely to be true. The flesh may become softer if the prey remains in water after death, but crocodiles will certainly avoid rotting meat. When feeding, a number of individuals will hold onto a carcass with their powerful jaws whilst twisting their bodies. The anchorage provided by the other individuals allows large chunks to be torn off for easier swallowing. Other cooperative feeding behavior has been reported, such as the action of many animals to cordon off an area of water to concentrate fish within. A hierarchy of feeding order is often observed in such situations, with more dominant animals feeding first.
Groups of Crocodiles will often move onto land to scavenge from kills made up to several hundred meters from the water. Adults have also been observed fishing using their bodies and tails to corral the fish towards the bank where they are concentrated and picked up with a sideways snatch of the jaws.
This species digs whole nests up to 50cm deep in sandy banks, several meters from the water. These may be in close proximity to other nests. Timing of nesting behavior varies with geographic location, it takes place during the dry season in the north, but at the start of the rainy season further south, usually from November through to the end of December. Females reach sexual maturity around 2.6 m, males at around 3.1 m. Females lay around 40 to 60 eggs in the nest, although this number is quite variable between different populations. Females remain near the nest at all times. Incubation time averages 80 to 90 days (ranges from 70 to 100 days), after which females open the nest and carry the juveniles to the water. Both males and females have been reported to assist hatching by gently cracking open eggs between their tongue and upper palate.
Hatchlings remain close to the juveniles for up to two years after hatching, often forming a crèche with other females. As with many Crocodilians, older juveniles tend to stay away from older, more territorial animals. Despite the vigilance of the female during the incubation period, a high percentage of nests are raided by a variety of animals, from hyenas and monitor lizards to humans. This predation usually occurs when the female is forced to leave the nest temporarily in order to thermo regulate by cooling off in the water.
Social behavior in Nile Crocodiles is often underestimated, although there are many aspects still poorly understood. It has been observed that social status may influence an individual's feeding success, with less dominant animals tending to eat less in situations where they come into frequent social contact with other, more dominant individual