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Crocodiles and False Gharials: Crocodylidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Crocodiles are most active at night, which is when they usually look for food. In the morning and evening, they frequently crawl out of the water and lay quietly in an open area to sunbathe, or bask. This helps warm their bodies. Crocodiles are excellent swimmers. By slowly swishing the strong tail from side to side, they can push their bodies through the water without having to paddle with their legs. They can also move well on land. Usually, they walk slowly, dragging the tail behind them, but when they are in a hurry, they run quite quickly while swinging the tail back and forth in the same motion they use when swimming.

Crocodiles usually get along fairly well with one another, but during the mating season, males can become bad-tempered. Usually, a large male need only sound a loud bellow or slap his head against the surface of the water to scare off a smaller male, but sometimes they fight by biting one another. The bites are hard enough to cause wounds that leave noticeable scars. Besides their bellows, crocodiles make other sounds, such as growls and hisses, when they feel threatened.

Male crocodiles may fight each other over the females during mating season, and one male may have babies with several females in a single year. All female crocodiles lay eggs rather than giving birth to babies. The females in some species use their back legs to dig a hole on land, and they bury their eggs there. These females lay their eggs in the dry season, and the eggs hatch when the rains come. In other species, the females lay their eggs in a pile of rotting leaves and dirt that they scrape together. The females lay their eggs at the beginning of the rainy season, and the eggs hatch during the wettest time of year. Depending on the species, females may lay 40 to 70 eggs at a time, with hatching occurring two to three months later. If the nest is especially warm, the eggs all hatch into males. If the nest is particularly cool, the eggs all hatch into females. A mother crocodile stays close to her nest until the eggs are ready to hatch. The baby crocodiles begin to make soft quacking noises when they are ready to break out of their eggs, and the mother rushes to the nest to pick up and carry each of her babies to the water. The mother, and sometimes the father, watches over the young for several weeks, but despite this care, fewer than one out of 10 babies escapes the many predators in their habitat. Those that do survive to adulthood can look forward to a long life. Crocodiles often live for 70 to 80 years in the wild.


The saltwater crocodile is a huge animal. The largest species of all crocodiles and alligators, it can grow to more than 20 feet (6.1 meters) long and weigh 2,200 pounds (1 metric ton). Occasionally, humans tangle with these beasts and lose. One of the most often-told tales of human versus crocodile dates back to World War II, when hundreds of Japanese soldiers hid in a swamp near Myanmar. A large group of saltwater crocodiles set upon the men that night, killing all but 20 by morning.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesCrocodiles and False Gharials: Crocodylidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, American Crocodile (crocodylus Acutus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, FALSE GHARIALS CROCODILES AND PEOPLE