A crocodile basks in the sun on the banks of the Nile River. He has just eaten, so he will probably not need to hunt again for a long time. He sleeps, undisturbed. He looks like his name—crocodile. It means “pebbly worm” in Greek, and a great pebbly worm with legs is what he looks like.
There are thirteen species of crocodiles in the world, though many people confuse them with alligators. One difference is easy to see up close. When a crocodile’s mouth is closed, his teeth are visible in an interlocking pattern, but an alligator’s teeth are hidden.
God has made both large crocodiles and small ones. Their sizes range from the 5-foot (1.5-m) dwarf crocodile to the 23-foot (7-m) Australian saltwater crocodile that weighs over a ton.
Crocodiles are reptiles. Like all reptiles, they are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, which means a crocodile’s body has no way of heating itself. In cold weather, a reptile can’t move very well, and he cannot digest food, so he must bask, or lie, in the sun. When it is too hot, a crocodile will retreat to the water or mud to cool off.
A crocodile is a powerful hunter and will eat almost anything. Crocodiles have a very low metabolism, and a large adult may go an entire year without eating, simply because he doesn’t need to. But they are very efficient and powerful hunters, with long tails and streamlined bodies for underwater attacks. A crocodile usually lies in wait for his prey, camouflaged in tall grass or in the mud, but when he attacks, he is swift and deadly. The Nile crocodile can run 30 mph (48 km/h)!
God gave him eyes and nostrils on the top of his head so he can be almost completely submerged but still able to breathe and watch. When only his eyes and nostrils are above water, he is very hard to see.
A crocodile usually holds its breath for about fifteen minutes, but he can stay underwater for an amazing three hours. When underwater, his ears and nostrils close tightly. He also has special see-through inner eyelids that protect his eyes. If he catches prey while underwater, his tongue acts like a stopper and closes his throat. God made the crocodile with even the ability to eat underwater! He can also expand his lungs, adjusting his ability to float.
God created unusual scales for the crocodile. Every scale has a tiny pit called a dermal pressure receptor. These pits help the crocodile to detect changes in water pressure, the movement of prey in the water, and water salinity.
Crocodiles have been known to migrate long distances to find water. It is thought that they might also have a homing instinct, because they have been known to travel up to 250 miles (400 km) to return home after being relocated.
A crocodile can have a scary 86 teeth at a time, all of which are replaced two or three times a year. They also have the most crushing bite of any animal on the planet, with 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. Even a great white shark has only 400 psi, and a person’s strongest bite has 200 psi. Not surprisingly, crocodiles are at the top of the food chain, and can live up to seventy years in the wild.
To many people, crocodiles are frightening. With their teeth and their claws and their predatory instincts, the crocodile would not be anyone’s first choice for a pet. But they are wonderfully made by the Creator of all things, and He made them just as He wanted them to be.
An Unusual Pair
by Alva Steury, Jr., 13, St. Joe, IN
A crocodile and an Egyptian Plover, you say? That IS an unusual pair!
A crocodile, as you know, eats lots of meat. And, of course, meat gets stuck in its teeth. So the crocodile lies in a suitable spot, and, with its mouth wide open, waits for the plover. Very soon, a plover approaches the crocodile’s mouth. The plover hops in and begins to clean the crocodile’s teeth and to pick leeches that cling to its tongue and gums.
After the plover is done cleaning the crocodile’s mouth, it hops onto the crocodile’s back and begins to pick off the ticks that cling there. So the plover flies away with a full stomach, and the crocodile swims away with a clean mouth!