Crocodile – Size, Diet, History, Appearance & Much More!


Crocodiles or Crocodylus acutus are most commonly found in Africa, Central America, North America, Asia, Oceania, and South America.

They are easily recognizable with their massive jaws, rows of razor-sharp teeth, and webbed feet. Most people have seen them whether that be in a zoo or actually in person. They look like something from the dinosaur era and they are one of the scariest as predators go!

But even though most people would recognize a crocodile without too much trouble, they are often confused with alligators. There are certainly differences between these two cousin species and we will look at that in more detail later on.

So, let’s take a deeper look into the crocodile.



Around 200 million years ago, the earliest ancestors of the crocodile species evolved. They were a smaller species with short snouts.

They originally came from Australia, as opposed to Africa which is what most people think.

These creatures have originated from the dinosaurs and are an actual living link to them which is pretty cool!

Crocodile Physical Characteristics

Forget about the scales. teeth and those beady eyes there are many other physical characteristics of these predators. But, what are they apart from them being the largest living reptile?

Crocodiles come in many colors like brown, grey, black and dull olive and their plate-like scales cover their body!

what does crocodile look like

They tend to move at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour – which is pretty speedy when you consider what they look like.

They can live anywhere between 20 to 70 years so adult crocodiles are living for a good bit of time. That’s a long time for swimming and chilling on the sand – sounds like the perfect life doesn’t it?

They can vary anywhere from 5.5 feet to 23 feet in length which is also a pretty big range and can weigh from 18 to 1000 kilograms – those are some pretty big crocs! They also develop sexual maturity around the ages of 4 to 12.

Crocodile Scientific Classification

crocodile life expectancy

We don’t want to sound fancy but some people are really interested in the scientific classifications of things – we don’t blame them!

In simple terms, the crocodile species continues to be part of the Crocodylia classification or under the plural Crocodylidae.

Anatomy and Appearance

A crocodile’s appearance is pretty distinct but let’s take a look at it in a little bit more detail at these wonderful creatures’ anatomy and appearance.

Their skin is pretty scaly and thick as well as being waterproof which ensures that they’re protected from other predators or other crocodiles, as well as avoiding being dried out – that would be embarrassing wouldn’t it?

crocodile anatomy

Their eyes and nostrils are also found at the top of their heads and snouts which is super useful for the way they live. While waiting to catch prey, they’ll wait and lie in the water or rivers with only their eyes and nostrils out, ready to pounce. That’s the perfect predator, isn’t it?

This may sound gross but crocs also have a third eyelid that’s transparent and lets them keep their eyes open without getting any water damage. Also, they have external flaps which will close their ears and nostrils so they’re protected from the water and can breathe underwater.

There’s no doubt that this is the largest reptile with its massive stature. Adults reach up to 1,000 kg in weight – what the heck!

Crocodile Facts

what does a crocodile look like

Now we all think that crocodiles are meat eaters but we have surprising facts about them and it’s not just to do with what they eat – keep reading to find out more.

  • Crocodiles are meat eaters or carnivores but according to scientists they really enjoy eating fruit. Well, who would have guessed that?
  • These creatures can go through 4,000 teeth in their life – that’s a whole lot of chompers in a lifetime!
  • Per square inch, crocs have one of the strongest bites in the world – it ranges from 3700 PSI for a saltwater crocodile and up to 5,000 PSI for a Nile crocodile. Not much is going to survive those kinds of numbers.
  • The longest crocodile ever to be caught was 20.2 feet and weighed over 1000 kg! Who caught it? A National Geographic Team! They clearly do know everything about our planet!
  • Unlike humans, crocodiles don’t sweat but then again they aren’t mammals. So to keep themselves cool they open and close their mouths, weird but true!

Crocodile Species

Just like any other species, the crocodile family is made up of lots of different variations, a bit like cousins in a human family – they share some traits but others are specific to their species.

And these species vary from location to location and the type of water whether it be fresh or salt. So let’s take a look at some of these different croc species and see what makes them special.

American Crocodiles

what does crocodiles look like

Crocodylus acutus or the American crocodile is one of the largest crocodile species. With males reaching up to 20 feet in length and weighing in at a massive 2,000 pounds – not something you would want to pick a fight with!

Don’t get me wrong if you come across one of these bad boys you are going to be in serious trouble but they are not as aggressive as some other species.

You will find these amazing creatures mostly in coastal areas and you often find them living in south Florida. But they have also had populations spotted in Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.

Australian Saltwater Crocodiles

Saltwater crocodiles were hunted for their skin for many years which really knocked their numbers as you can imagine. But they are making a comeback and since 1996 they are no longer on the at-risk list.

These crocs are real predators and are well known for ambushing their prey. They kill their prey in one of two ways either by drowning them or swallowing them whole – not sure which one I would prefer!?.

They have even been known to kill sharks and as you guessed they are considered a huge threat to humans if you happen to cross paths with them.

crocodile infomation

The Saltwater croc is definitely not on the small size and that’s for certain! They can grow up to 20 feet in length and some can weigh over 2500 pounds – just wow!

And it doesn’t stop there – the saltwater crocodile is also the biggest reptile in the world. Its wide body means that it is often mistaken for an alligator and adults are usually dark green in color.

But, these crocs don’t come in just one color, they may be tan, black, or have a mixture of colored scales, and what color they are depends on their age and maturity.

Saltwater crocs can be found from India to northern Australia of course it would need to be saltwater. So, if you don’t fancy meeting up with one of these guys, then you might want to reconsider your next vacation destination!

Nile Crocodiles

riding crocodiles

Nile crocodiles, often referred to by their scientific name Crocodylus niloticus, are very aggressive and have thick and scaly crocodile skin.

These crocodiles have a huge bite force but their mouths can be brought under control by an adult using some duct tape. And this is because these crocodiles have really poor muscles that they use to open their jaws. They tend to keep their habitat in lakes and swamps.

You most commonly find the Nile crocodile in Africa and only the saltwater crocodile lives over a wider geographic area than them. They have been found as far north as the Red Sea, Syria, and Palestine.

Freshwater Crocodiles

guinea crocodile

The Crocodylus johnstoni or Freshwater crocodile absolutely love freshwater as you can tell by their name! Often found in Western Australia in rivers and creeks.

Unlike their saltwater cousins, they are not considered as a threat to humans but don’t be fooled if they feel the need to protect themselves they will bite!

They are smaller crocodiles in comparison to the saltwater and Americans, only reaching around 9 feet, and have a top weight of 220 pounds at most. But that’s still a heavy croc!

Despite loving freshwater, they can live with their saltwater cousins but most definitely prefer living in their freshwater habitats!

Disappearing Diversity of Crocodiles

Let’s learn bout the disappearing variety of crocodilian species.

The Gharial

siamese crocodile

The gharial is also known as the fish-eating crocodile because as their name suggests they are great at hunting fish underwater because of their long, narrow snout.

They are one of the largest crocodile species with males getting to around 20 feet in length and they are distinctive looking because of a large pot-like boss on their snout.

Gharials are found in the rivers of northern India today but that is not where they originally inhabited.

These are one of the croc species that really don’t like to leave the water and actually only briefly leave to bask in the sun or to lay their eggs.

The population of Gharial has dropped dramatically since the 1930s but conservation programs are up and running in both India and Nepal to try to introduce captive-bred crocs back into the wild.

The Muddy Dragon

crocodile prey

The Chinese alligator more commonly known as the muddy dragon is, in fact, a crocodile and not an alligator. But as you may have guessed from the name, it is native to China.

The Muddy Dragon is one of the smallest croc species and only grows to around 7 feet and weighs a maximum of 100 pounds as an adult. Females are quite a bit smaller than males.

The Chinese alligator also sports a fully armored body including its belly and it doesn’t have webbed feet. In the typical alligator style, they are mostly dark gray or black.

They are nocturnal in the summer and go into a kind of hibernation mode during the winter months living in underground burrows. Due to their summer schedule, they are able to live in areas that are populated by humans without very much interaction or trouble.

The mating season comes early in the summer for this reptile with females producing 20-30 eggs, but they are smaller than the average croc egg.

The Cuban Crocodile

where do crocodiles live

This croc is a medium-sized species that are strong swimmers and have adapted really well to walking and jumping, making them perfect on land and in water predators – these are the things that nightmares are made of!

However, like the other animals on this list, they are critically endangered and are slowly dying out in the wild. Luckily, there are currently still living crocodiles but there are lots that we can do to save this and many other species.


Coming from the Philipines, these crocs definitely look the part and their lifespan will vary between 50 and 70 years. They’re highly threatened because of the unsustainable fishing methods we humans are using all the time. The male crocodiles and female crocodiles are roughly the same size in this species.

Snouted Crocs

a crocodile

In our opinion, these are the creepiest of all the endangered species. Originating from West Africa, this crocodile has a slender snout, hence its name.

There are five main types of crocodiles in Africa and this is one of them! Once again, this croc is also in significant danger of becoming extinct.

Extant Species of Crocodiles

  1. Saltwater Crocodile
  2. American Crocodile
  3. Orinoco Crocodile
  4. West African Slender Snouted Crocodile
  5. Nile Crocodile
  6. Marsh Crocodile
  7. Black Caiman
  8. False Gharial
  9. American Alligator
  10. Gharial
  11. Dwarf Crocodile

Crocodile Distribution and Habitat

There’s no doubt that crocodiles can be found anywhere and everywhere which is mildly concerning if you have a phobia. But don’t worry, you’re not likely to come across many crocs on your daily hike!

They can be found in various wetland habitats like lakes, especially in warmer waters and brackish water.

One thing crocodiles can’t do is control the temperature in their bodies which sounds a bit silly because of the potential predators that they are! So, they rely a great deal on the sun to warm them up when they decide to be land animals after coming out of the water!

Crocodile Behavior and Lifestyle

crocodile definition

Did you know that crocodiles are nocturnal animals? Don’t worry, this was also a surprise to us when we first found out. They like to spend a good bit of their time in the water but that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t cover a good bit of ground on land when they want to.

Hatchlings tend to eat smaller fish and insects when they’re still young but this will slowly grow into a hunger for larger fish and mammals! They’ve also been known to eat a human here and there but this doesn’t happen often enough for them to be classed as man-eaters.

They have adapted amazingly in order to hunt in the dark water they tend to live in. Pressure receptors around their mouths help crocs detect motion which makes catching prey just that much easier.

Crocodiles thermoregulate by moving between the sun and shade throughout the day and, as we mention later on, communicate through vocalization.

These are all amazing behaviors that crocodiles have developed in order to make their life easier – isn’t it just incredible!

Crocodile Lifespan

The crocodile’s lifespan will be entirely dependent on the species of croc that you are actually talking about.

For example, a saltwater crocodile’s lifespan is up to 70 years but a Nile crocodile is estimated to only live around 50 to 60 years – now both of these are really good lifespans but one is significantly longer than the other simply based on the species of crocodile.

Of course, things like their environment, habitat, and encounters with humans can all have a drastic effect on their lifespan as well.

Crocodile Diet

what is a croco

When living in the wild, crocodiles would happily eat fish, small frogs, small mammals, lizards, or crustaceans. Some species are also known to enjoy the occasional piece of fruit if it’s available to them.

However, crocs in captivity have a very different diet and this can cause health problems for them. In captivity, a crocs diet will usually be made up of things like rodents, fish, and poultry.

Their food will also need to be chopped up into appropriate bite-size pieces. The best way to feed captive crocodiles is to provide them with live prey such as fish and insects, so they can hunt as they would in the wild.

Crocodile Reproduction and Life Cycles

Crocs can reach such amazing sizes that it’s hard to believe they’re only 20-30 cm when they first pop out of their egg. Newly hatched crocodiles will stay close to its family in order to stay as safe as possible. 

These tiny beasts grow rapidly in the next few years, gaining about a foot a year until they are four years old. They will continue to grow much further into their adult life but it won’t be on such a large scale.

Sexual maturity happens anywhere from ages 4 to 12 when crocodiles are anywhere from 5 to 10 feet.

characteristics of crocodile

Now the crocs’ lifespan changes drastically depending on where they are. There’s a record of crocs in captivity living to around 70 years old which is just fantastic but this is very rare in the wild. 

Now on to reproduction!

You would think that reproduction in crocodiles would be pretty straightforward but that isn’t the case!

Firstly there is a long-winded courtship that happens on land where each crocodile changes their touch and vocalization to communicate with their mate that they are ready to mate.

Once both crocs have had enough of the courtship ritual, they finally get down to the act of reproducing in the water.

Around 3 weeks later depending on the species of croc, you can expect the female to lay eggs in a nest that she has built. These eggs will be hard-shelled and there can be anywhere from 12 to 48 per nest – we know, that’s a lot of babies at one time!

The eggs will hatch anywhere from 65 to 95 days later but this depends on the temperature, so it can differ slightly. The temperature will also be the deciding factor in the sex of the eggs.

Crocodile Vs. Alligator

elligater evolution

A common misconception is that crocodiles and alligators are the same and yes, they can be pretty similar. But, what’s the difference?

Alligators tend to be darker than crocodiles and tend to have a dark, black-grey color, unlike the greener color of crocodiles. Alligators also have a much broader snout whilst crocs have less of an elongated snout and more of a narrow snout.

Teeth are also different in crocodiles and alligators. When alligators close their mouths, then you don’t really see their bottom line of teeth until their mouths open. But in crocodiles, their sharp teeth are almost always on display for the world to see!

Crocodiles and alligators can’t breed together either which shows that they aren’t the same species. Yes, both fall into the crocodilia category but they’re not in close enough relation to interbreed and produce more fertile offspring.

Which one is more aggressive? Oh, definitely the crocodile which is something you may not have realized, so see you later alligator!

Relationship With Humans

animals crocodile

Crocodiles and humans have and always will have quite a complicated relationship. Some religions worship them while other people see them solely as something to hunt. So, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between the two.

Danger to Human

There’s no denying that these are big and wild animals meaning there’s no predicting what their next move is going to be. Unfortunately, this also means they can be very dangerous to humans.

Larger species such as the Saltwater Nile crocodile are notorious for killing people in Africa. More than 100 humans have also fallen victim to them since the 70s when they became a protected species in Australia.

But would you survive being bitten by one? Well if you were somehow lucky enough to get out of there alive then we’d first like to say a very big well done before moving on to tell you that bites can be treated by most antibiotics.

So, if you do happen to get bitten by a croc and think the infection will be a pain to get rid of, then there’s no need to worry anymore!

Crocodile Products

Crocodile skin has been used for hundreds of years in order to make items that never seem to go out of trend. This includes being bred and farmed for their skin to then be harvested by humans in order to make these items.

In Religion

Crocodiles are also worshiped in many different religions, with the most famous being the Egyptian deity Sobek. Sobek is often depicted as the Nile crocodile, as the two are very often associated with each other, or as a human with a crocodile head.

Sobek served in many ways but his main focus was providing protection against the wonders of the Nile. He did however have connections with fertility and military prowess as well.

They are also worshiped in India during the Manngem Thapnni festival where a mud sculpture of a crocodile is made and a chicken sacrifice is made. Some believe this will stop crocodiles from roaming while others believe it is a way to make the god of rain happy.

No matter what you think, there’s no denying that these creatures have been worshiped for many many years and this will probably continue for many more to come.

Crocodile Tears

You’re probably all familiar with the term crocodile tears right? But have you ever wondered where this came from? Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you.

is a crocodile a lizard

Many people used to think crocs cried whilst eating their prey and took this as them showing fake sympathy for their victims. This was then taken from Latin to English as a way of describing someone who shows fake sympathy.

It was later thought that crocodiles weren’t actually crying as a way of showing fake sympathy but instead, their tear ducts are activated whilst they eat.

Bogorad’s syndrome which, similarly, causes people to cry whilst they are eating has now been coined ‘crocodile tear syndrome’.

This phrase is also commonly used in literature such as by Shakespeare – do you recognize it from anything?

Crocodile Predators and Threats

Crocs don’t have many predators or threats thanks to their size but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe. 

The biggest threat that crocodiles face today is humans. This can be farming and hunting for commercial use or losing habitats for human development. Illegal killing and roadkill are also significant threats to these wonderful creatures.

We’ve all heard about the rising sea levels that are happening all around us but have you thought about the impact this can have on animals other than us?

Many breeds of crocodiles live in freshwater habitats and if these are flooded with salt water due to rising sea levels then this could put these animals in grave danger!

Crocodile Conservation Status

There are currently 24 species of crocodilian in the world that are not yet extinct but that doesn’t mean this will always be the case. 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a list based on scientific research in order to bring awareness to animals on the verge of extinction. They separate species into 5 sub-categories:

  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Least Risk (LR)
  • Data Deficient (DD)

The current 24 species of crocodile include 7 listed as Critically Endangered, 4 listed as Vulnerable, and 12 listed as Least Risk. 


How Do Crocodiles Communicate?

Just like us, crocodiles use their voices to communicate. Yup, you heard that right, they’ll vocalize in order to communicate their basic needs with others around them.

Young crocodiles make squeaking or grunting sounds whereas older crocs might sound more aggressive as they use a combination of hissing, grunting, and growling to communicate with the rest of their float.

What is the Commercial Use of Crocodiles?

Now we know that some of you croc enthusiasts might not want to read this but crocodiles are used quite often for commercial purposes. 

Alligator and crocodile farms exist especially for harvesting crocodile meat and leather from the crocs’ skin. 

These farms will breed their animals especially in order to get the goods they need for commercial use. 

This might sound like a new sort of thing, harvesting crocodile skin and all that, but the earliest record of crocs being bred for commercial use can be found as early as the 1800s in North America!

What Animals Eat Crocodiles?

So we’ve all seen the size of a crocodile right? And it’s hard to think that anything would dare try and eat it. Well, it might be a surprise to you then that these beasts do indeed have their predators. 

Now that you know that crocodiles do have predators, it’s probably not much of a surprise that humans are the biggest culprit.

We not only use these animals for commercial purposes but many people do enjoy a croc stake every once in a while.

Leopards and panthers are also predators of the crocodile which you wouldn’t expect given the rather large size difference!

If you think that was unexpected, then you’ll think we’re lying about the next one.

Some snakes can certainly cause damage to a croc and if that damage is bad enough, then we’re almost positive they would end up eating any leftover meat. 


Who knew there was so much to say about crocodiles?

These are such fascinating creatures on their own but it’s also super interesting to see how much the relationship between humans and crocs changes so much from place to place. We are one of their biggest threats but also worship them, it’s so interesting to see.

Also, who would have thought that there was such little difference between a crocodile and an alligator? Just remember to look out for the size of that snout!

Whether you came here to learn about the etymology of the word crocodile, look into disappearing species, or simply just wanted to brush up on your crocodile facts then we hope we could be of help.


Emma Davies
Emma has loved all animals but especially dogs all her life. She was smitten from the first puppy to enter her life at just 5 years old. Over the years she has had her heart stolen by one particular breed and that's the German Shepherd! She has used her love of dogs and animals, in general, to create a successful writing career for herself over the last 6 years. Emma has written in a variety of niches but especially loves those that are centered around dogs and animals. When she's not writing you can find her enjoying the great outdoors with her family and beautiful German Shepherd Faith.

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