American crocodiles are Neotropics crocodilian species of South America and Central America. The species’ population is widespread along the coasts of Mexico to South Florida, including some regions of Peru and Venezuela.

Sub PhylumVertebrata
Sub FamilyCrocodylinae
SpeciesCrocodylus acutus

Table of Contents

Physical Description of American crocodiles

American Crocodile basking

The most distinguishing feature of the American crocodile that makes it different from other species is its less thick, scaly armor. 

Adult crocodiles’ coloration is different from younger ones in this species. The young infants have lighter tan color, turning into olive brown as crocodile ages.

Their narrow head with long snouts differentiates them from American alligators. The sharp, zigzagged teeth on their snouts interlock almost perfectly.

All Crocodylus species are well known for their teeth’s alignment. Their upper jaw contains 20-40 teeth, while the lower jaw has 28-32 teeth.

The size of this species varies as gender changes. Males are more extensive and bulkier than female species.

They use extended and intense tails for swimming. The protective eyelid smoothens their underwater vision. They have a special kind of Iris design which provides them excellent night vision.

Size and Weight

Crocodylus Acutus, American Crocodile, are moderate-sized Crocodilia that can grow up to 4 meters long. There has been reporting of 7 meters long Crocodylus Acutus, but the statistic is still unconfirmed due to lack of evidence.

Adult American crocodiles can reach up to 1100 pounds (400-500 kg). If the 7 meters long Crocodylus Acutus is true, it can be well more than 1000 kg (2200 pounds).

Despite its humongous size, it can still run 14 square miles per hour (32 km/hr).

Diets of American Crocodiles

Crocodylus Acutus is a natural carnivore; it mainly feeds on fish, birds, turtles, and frogs. The baby crocodiles do not have full digestive and chewing strength, so it relies on land insects.

Though they eat stones, it is not due to taste or hunger issues. The hard-shell animals are hard to digest for crocodiles, too, so the rocks in the stomach aid in crushing the shells and intricate layers.

These predators swallow their prey whole. It takes approximately 72 hours from the process of swallowing diets to excreting the remaining. 

Geographic Range and Habitat

Southern Florida bay is the primary home of Crocodylus Acutus. Besides Florida, the American crocodiles can also be spotted in the Caribbean Islands and some of North America.

C. Acutus also resides on coastal lagoons in Mexico with the presence of Brackish water. The high concentration of these species is in Costa Rica. 

The crocodile prefers to stay in Fresh Water near the Dominican Republic and Biscayne Bay.

The American crocodile is a Coastal, brackish, and salt-water habitat crocodilian species. Still, they are sometimes spotted in freshwater habitats due to the extensive canals system in South Florida.

The saltwater-loving Crocodylus Porosus species prefer hypersaline water. They have maintained a unique settlement in some lacks and canals bordering the Florida power plant.

The habitat selection primarily depends upon food source and shelter. The mangrove swamps, for example, are a great source of food for Crocodylus Porosus.

The survival of crocodiles becomes challenging if the water levels are low. They dig a burrow and stay there in the cold season for thermal sources of heat.

The crocodile does not migrate until food scarcity, habitat destruction, or mating season.

Mating and Reproduction in American crocodiles

The process of courtship can last up to two months. The season is January and February when male crocodiles engage in a show-off competition to attract female crocodiles.

The competition includes the loudest roar, head raising, and displaying a sharp, impressive jaw line by opening a mouth. The female responds with a roar of her own if she likes the male.

The breeding season arrives between April and May. Sexual maturity occurs in female American crocodiles aged 8-10 years, whose average length is 1.8-2.4 meters long.

The female prepares a crocodile nest diameter of 1.8 m and 1.5 m deep before mating. The crocodile nests act as incubating devices for crocodile eggs.

The female lays 30-60 eggs per season, which hatches in 9-10 weeks. The nest where eggs are laid is covered with dirt to incubate.

Incubation for little C. Acutus

Hatchling of American Crocodile

American Crocodile eggs take about 70 days to hatch. The eggs for incubation are closely placed for safety from breaking. 

The temperature of incubation is the determining factor for female or female hatchlings. 

The nest temperature between 30-34 degrees Celcius results in an equal number of both sexes. If above 34, most hatchlings are male; below 30 will result in most females.

The time for hatching starts from late July to Mid August. The female frequently visits the nest as hatching approaches. The female crocodiles listen to noise by placing their heads over the nest. 

After the hatching, the mother aid in escorting offsprings to water which are dispersed quickly and have to survive on their own. 

The lifespan of the American Crocodile

The lifespan of Crocodylus Acutus is among the long-lived reptiles, more than 100 years. But sadly, most adult survival rates do not exceed 60-70 years of age.

The mortality rate is triggered during the stage of incubation. The coastal floods can swipe away the whole nest of American crocodiles.

After the hatching, only 1 of 4 makes it to the age of 4. The main reason for this is their miniature size as infants.

The Crocodylus Acutus have not developed strong physical traits to be safe from predators and other phenomena.

Predator’s threats to American Crocodile

The crocodilians of Costa Rica are vulnerable to raccoons, large cats, and giant fishes when infants. They often hide in shelters to be safe from their predators.

Later on, as they age, these free-ranging reptiles develop a special camouflage feature called crypsis which allows them to blend nicely into their surroundings.

Facts of Crocodylus Acutus

  • The female name for American Crocodile is Cow, and the male name is Bull. The babies are called hatchlings, independent as soon as they are hatched.
  • The motionless hunting of these species is something worth watching in documentaries. They wait for prey to come near and grab them with their strong jaws and perform a maneuver called “death roll.” They even leave some bites of food to attract fish.
  • The swallowing of stone is not just to crush foods but also to control buoyancy, a feature of rising or floating when in water.
  • Though C. Acutus is a salt-based crocodile, they can not drink salt water. The young ones prefer drinking water from the uppermost level as the fresh water’s density is lower than salt water. The adult can adjust the saline level of water by extracting salts using salt glands present on a tongue.
  • Crocodiles have the most advanced brains and heart functions than any other reptiles.
  • The ectothermic metabolism in crocodile species allows them to survive for a long time, even without a meal.

Population and Conservation Status

American Crocodile Crocodylus Acutus

The exact figure for the American crocodile population is still unknown. The species population is not a lot as they have been listed in the endangered species act of the United States.

The invasive reptiles were before threatened for their illegal poaching. Now the threat differs and is more severe due to habitat loss.

The water temperature is too high in the summer season and too low in the dry seasons in Latin America. In these circumstances, C. Acutus might be unable to maintain its body temperature, resulting in death or migration.

The creeks in mangrove swamps of Central and North America are no longer sustainable habitats for American Crocodiles.

Other crocodile species of America with genetic relationships with Crocodylus Acutus are also endangered, such as Crocodylus Floridanus, Crocodylus Moreletti, and Crocodylus rhombifer.

But thankfully, with efforts from Crocodile specialist group from various preservation agencies and organizations, the C. Acutus population is increasing.

Research on C.Acutus

  • A study published in the South American Journal of Herpetology states that the hatching rate by only mother crocodiles’ aid is 68.3%.
  • The herpetological review of the genetic diversity of Pacific Costa Rica C. Acutus shows 81% of genetic variation within the population. This evolutionary history might not be recalled for moderate variation of random breeding.
  • Cherkiss MS et al. 2011 stated that the distribution of crocodiles in Estuaries like Florida Natural Areas Inventory sites and Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refugee depends upon quantitative and qualitative freshwater availability.
  • The research published in the Journal of Animal Ecology states that protecting juvenile age classes is the most effective way to save American crocodiles. The age groups are reproductive populations that require larger home ranges.
  • N.A. Rossi et al. 2020 stated that the putative populations’ variation in each sampling region could be a critical factor in the sensitivity of population growth.

Pros and Cons of C.Acutus to Humans

American crocodile, along with
Alligator Mississippiensis is a famous tourist attraction in Florida.
Sometimes an attack or have attacked people and domestic animals.
In some areas, it is the source of food and leather products. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are American crocodiles aggressive?

Though juvenile crocodiles prefer to hunt small invertebrates, there have been many negative encounters with humans. American crocodile was reported to attack 90 people from 2008-2013 and have taken 20 lives. The Crocodylus Moreletii, which share the same habitat as the black river lower morass, are an aggressive crocodile species.

How many American crocodiles are left?

There are approximately 2000 American crocodiles left. The loss of habitat, especially aquatic habitats, diminished the species range. However, the species number is growing, which is a good sign that we can still save the planet.

Can crocodiles and alligators mate?

The answer is a big NO. Though both species have a similar appearance, the genetic difference in mating population biology doesn’t allow them to mate with each other.

Is a spectacled caiman a crocodile?

The spectacled caiman is not precisely a crocodile, but it belongs to the order crocodilians but the family of Aligatoridae. Black caimans, the largest species, can look like crocodiles but are about 13.4 feet in length.

Where can you see crocodiles in Florida?

In Florida and nearby areas, Crocodiles can be seen in places with suitable habitat types, such as:
– Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
– Coiba National Park
– Coiba Island
– Black River
You can visit the Florida Museum of Natural History for crocodile exhibitions in Florida.

C. Acutus or American crocodiles can be considered a lucky species as various efforts for its conservation are going on.

The same cannot be said for species like Emperor Penguins and Elephant seals. The major struck of their endangerment is habitat loss.

Our actions matter the most in saving the planet, saving us, and saving these unique species. #climateactionnow #everyspecieslifematters

(Last Updated on August 7, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dawadi is a Mountain Ecologist, an expert on the impact of climate change on humans, animals, and plant species. As an activist for animal welfare, he believes an animal's eyes can speak a great language of the planet's state and environmental condition.