62 Interesting Crocodile Facts That May Surprise You

Last updated on September 9th, 2022

Crocodiles are amazing creatures and are often confused with alligators. Although the two have many similarities, there are several ways to tell the difference between the two. Crocodiles are larger than alligators. Also, crocodiles have a V-shaped snout, and alligators have a U-shaped snout. Finally, crocodiles are olive green or light brown with a mottled pattern, and alligators are dark gray or black with a cream underside. With these 62 interesting crocodile facts, let us learn more about them.

Crocodile facts

1. Crocodile Habitat

Crocodiles are semi-aquatic and are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and North America. They live in wetland areas, such as lakes and freshwater rivers. They can also live in saltwater, often creating homes in lagoons, estuaries, or mangrove swamps, but most prefer freshwater.

Keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles if you’re ever in any of these areas because they’re aggressive.

2. How many species of crocodiles are known?

There are 23 species of crocodiles in the world, and their lifespan varies between 35 and 75 years, depending on the species.

The size also varies depending on the species, and the smallest is the Dwarf Crocodile, which can grow to be four feet, nine inches long, and weigh between 40 to 71 pounds.

The Saltwater Crocodile is the largest and can grow up to 23 feet long and weigh 2,200 to 2,600 pounds.

3. Telltale Signs of Species

You will never go astray with DNA, but if you only have time for a quick check, examine their anatomy. Every species has a unique combination of snout proportion, bony dorsal structures, and scale arrangement.

4. Estimating Age

A lamellar growth ring appears on crocodile bones each year – handy for measuring age. Counting rings, we learned that most species live 30-40 years. The largest ones can average 60-70, with a few individuals living for over a century.

5. Crocodiles are Reptiles

Crocodiles are part of the reptile family, and they breathe air. They are cold-blooded vertebrates with thick, scaly skin rather than fur or feathers.

6. What do crocodiles eat?

Nile Crocodile eating fish
Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) trying to swallow a big Tilapia. Photo © Bernard DUPONT

Crocodiles are apex predators and consume other animals as their sole source of nutrition. They eat fish, turtles, birds, and other mammals.

They’ve also been known to eat domestic dogs that get too close to the crocodile’s territory, possums, cattle, and sharks.

If there is little food available, they will feed on insects.

7. They’re Carnivores

Crocodiles have been reported to eat fruit, but all the fruit they can eat won’t sustain their diet. They are classified as carnivores and don’t eat a combination of plants and animals like omnivores.

8. Crocodiles Existed During the Cretaceous Period

The Cretaceous period occurred between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago, and crocodiles coexisted with dinosaurs.

Scientists believe an asteroid hit the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, and the crocodile managed to survive the mass extinction and has been around ever since.

9. They’re Closely Related To Birds and Dinosaurs

Although crocodiles are reptiles, they’re more closely related to dinosaurs and birds than most animals classified as reptiles. The crocodile lived among the dinosaurs, and birds are avian dinosaurs.

10. Crocodile Produce Tears

Have you ever heard the expression, crocodile tears? This term refers to someone fake crying to get attention or get out of trouble.

What you may not know is that crocodiles really do produce tears. They swallow too much air when they eat, which affects the lachrymal gland that produces tears, but they aren’t crying because they’re sad.

11. Why do crocodiles eat stones sometimes?

Crocodiles are predators and have their choice of meals in their environment, and the fact that they eat stones doesn’t make much sense, but there’s a reason behind it.

Crocodiles’ stomachs are highly acidic, helping them to digest hooves, bones, and other byproducts, and swallowing stones aid in digestion. Rocks in a crocodile’s stomach help crush and grate food. This is definitely one of the amazing crocodile facts.

It is noteworthy that crocodiles can secrete stomach acid 10 times faster than any other animal.

12. Why and how do crocodiles hibernate?

Australian Crocodile
Australian Crocodile. Photo © Thorsten

Crocodiles are cold-blooded and prefer to live in tropical areas close to wetlands. They cannot generate heat on their own and go into long periods of sleep, similar to hibernation, called aestivation. Crocodiles wake up when the weather starts to warm up and live their lives until it gets cold again.

13. Playtime with Crocodiles

They may look petrifying, but they are playful. Crocodiles have fun whenever they can. Any object can be a toy: floating debris, noisy ceramics, or wooden balls. They may engage in locomotor play, like surfing ocean waves, sliding down slopes, or riding water currents. Playing can also be a social activity, with babies piggybacking on their friends and males giving free rides to their life mate.

14. Hunting with Baits

Beware of clever crocodiles. These giant geniuses can use tools to fool prey, such as holding twigs with their snout to attract nest-building birds. They can hide for hours underwater and lunge at the right time.

15. Tree-climbing Crocodiles

Esturine baby crocodile on a tree branch
Esturine baby crocodile on a tree branch. Photo © Debjit Chakraborty

When there’s a will, there’s a way! Crocs aren’t as agile as monkeys, yet some can climb trees regularly. Moving up lets them bask in the sun and monitor their surroundings. Small juveniles can reach 30 feet, while adults can rise to 6 feet. This is a fascinating fact about crocodiles.

16. The Crocodile Bird

The bravest bird in the world? Probably the Egyptian plover, a creature noted for flying into crocodile mouths. What seems like a suicide mission is a cleaning symbiosis in action. The bird feeds on meat between teeth, and the grateful Nile crocodile enjoys the work of his little dentist.

17. Crocodiles Were Once At the Top of the Food Chain

Today, humans are at the top of the food chain; however, it hasn’t always been this way. Crocodiles were at the top of the food chain during the Mesozoic Era, around 100 million years ago.

Over the last million years, humans have taken over, and we’re at the top of the food chain, but this won’t stop a crocodile from preying on you if you get too close.

18. Crocodiles are Nocturnal

Crocodiles have strong senses and excellent night time vision. Most are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and remain awake at night.

19. They Don’t Use Their Vision While Hunting

Crocodiles have a third eyelid (the nictating membrane is a transparent shield that keeps the dirt and water out. Think of it like natural goggles, helping them keep their eyes peeled) that protects their eyes underwater, making it challenging to see their prey. They are highly receptive to vibrations, helping capture their prey in the water.

They have excellent vision on land, particularly at night, and they use their vision and vibrations when hunting prey on land.

20. How do they hunt?

A crocodile attacking wildebeests in water
Crocodile facts: a crocodile attacking wildebeests. Photo © Hedrus

Crocodiles ambush their prey in the water. They wait in the water for their prey to drink or cool off, and they strike. Crocodiles then drag the prey to the water to drown them, often eating them whole. If the prey puts up a fight, the crocodile will thrash their prey or use a death roll to fatally injure the prey so it can be quickly eaten.

21. All About Scales

Scales cover most of a crocodile’s body. They have smooth bellies, with scales protecting them when they slide on land. Meanwhile, they have rugged backs covered in thick, scaly armor that shields them from attacks. The colors and patterns differ with each species, often helping them blend in with their environment.

22. The Function of a Crocodile’s Tail

Long and strong, their tails never fail. These propel crocodiles forward when swimming and improve balance when moving on land. During courtship, males may use these to gain attention. During attacks, they can flick their tail to knock out their targets.

23. How do crocodiles get rid of salt from their bodies?

Excessive salt may be fatal, but saltwater crocodiles can shrug it off. Their secret? Well-developed salt glands. These organs maintain electrolyte balance by excreting excess salt from the blood. You’ll also find these in birds, turtles, and other reptiles.

24. The Infant Mortality Rate is Very High

Sadly, many crocodiles don’t live past infancy. According to some sources, 99 percent of crocodiles are eaten in their first year of life.

When predators such as other crocodiles, hyenas, lizards, and fish spot an infant crocodile, they often eat them, which could be why the crocodile population is relatively small.

25. Crocodiles Walk Much Slower Than They Swim

Many people believe crocodiles are very fast and cannot be outrun, but this is just a myth. Crocodiles can belly run up to 11 miles per hour, and the average human runs eight to nine miles per hour, but when your adrenaline starts pumping, you should be able to outrun a crocodile, mainly because they tire easily.

Most crocodiles prefer the water and often come ashore only to bask in the sun or for the females to lay eggs.

26. Crocodiles Can Communicate With One Another

Crocodiles can communicate with one another in nature. Young crocodiles grunt and squeak, and adults hiss, growl, and roar at one another.

Some species make other sounds, such as gunshot sounds, engine noise, and even people mimicking crocodiles. They often communicate when threatened, or a mother crocodile’s babies are in danger. They also make sounds to lure their prey.

27. A Crocodile Against An Alligator

Alligator in Florida Everglades
Alligator in Florida Everglades. Interesting crocodile facts. Photo © Steve Byland

Crocodiles don’t come face to face with alligators in most areas of the world except in South Florida. Have you ever wondered which animal would win in a fight? In a head-to-head match-up, the crocodile will win.

Crocodiles are larger than alligators and have a stronger bite.

Crocodiles aren’t as fast in the water or out as alligators, but they’re more aggressive. Alligators often attack only when threatened and will flee if faced with uncertainty.

Crocodiles are highly territorial and will attack without being provoked. These traits will help a crocodile win in a fight.

28. Are crocodiles a bigger threat to humans than alligators?

Although alligators and crocodiles are both deadly to humans, you should be more worried about running into a crocodile.

Alligators often attack humans in the water when they mistake them for prey. If an alligator knows there’s a human nearby, it will usually flee. Also, alligators kill around one person in the United States every year.

Crocodiles are more aggressive and won’t flee from humans. There are many non-fatal crocodile attacks each year, and crocodiles kill around 1,000 people in Africa alone every year. Fortunately for us, there’s a small crocodile population in the United States.

29. They Have Incredibly Powerful Jaws

Crocodiles have very powerful jaws. The muscles in the jaw are weak and sensitive to the touch but have one of the strongest bites of all animals in the animal kingdom.

Saltwater crocodiles are the largest species, and their bite is three times stronger than a lion‘s or a tiger‘s.

Crocodiles can clamp their jaws shut in just 50 milliseconds which is six times faster than we can blink.

30. They Can Open Their Jaws Underwater

Nile Crocodile
The Nile Crocodile. Interesting crocodiles facts. Photo © Josh More

Crocodiles can open their mouths underwater to eat their prey, thanks to a valve in the back of their throat. When a crocodile opens its mouth underwater, the valve will close, allowing them to open their mouths without swallowing water.

31. They Don’t Chew

A crocodile’s jaw cannot move sideways, making it impossible for them to grind their food in a chewing motion.

They swallow food whole and have acidic stomachs to break down the food and swallow stones to help speed up the process.

32. Crocodiles Are Very Smart

A crocodile’s brain is relatively small, but they aren’t dumb. Their brain is capable of learning more than any other reptile in the animal kingdom. 

A study found that the brain of Nile crocodiles grows fast in the first few years. It slows down but never stops. It’s around 8.5 cm3 for a large adult, enclosed in a bony braincase.

Like humans, they have a cerebral cortex – responsible for cognition, memory, consciousness, thoughts, and perception.

33. Guarding Crocodile Eggs

Farm-friendly animals? Yes, they are! Philippine crocodiles protect rice fields by preying on pests like rats and snails. They keep fish populations healthy by eating the weak. However, collectors and predators are threatening their population. Conservationists are paying locals to guard nests and raise hatchlings to increase their chances of survival.

34. Crocodiles Can Hold Their Breath Underwater

Crocodiles can hold their breath underwater but aren’t considered marine creatures.

They can hold their breath underwater for over an hour, and Cambridge researchers believe they know why. They think that there’s a tiny fragment of hemoglobin that helps them breathe underwater, which is a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

35. They Have Excellent Senses

We already mentioned that crocodiles have excellent night vision, which helps them hunt at night, along with their ability to sense vibrations.

Crocodiles also have an incredible sense of smell and hearing, which has given them an evolutionary advantage and makes them very successful predators.

36. Gender

A baby crocodile’s gender isn’t set in stone when they are created. Female crocodiles lay around 60 eggs at a time, and the temperature of the nest determines gender. The babies will be female if the nest is less than 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s warmer than 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the babies will be males.

37. 5,000 Pounds Of Pressure

Salt Water Crocodile
Salt Water Crocodile. Photo © Emily

When we bite down, our jaw produces 100 – 200 pounds of pressure per square inch. When a crocodile bites down, its jaw (the Nile Crocodile) can produce up to 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

When tested, the saltwater crocodiles were able to exert a bite force of 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi).

38. The Largest Crocodile Captured Alive

Long was a saltwater crocodile and the largest ever in captivity. It was captured by a National Geographic team in Agusan del Sur Province, Philippines, in November 2011 and was 20.2 feet long and weighed 2,370 pounds. Sadly, Lolong died from cardiac arrest and pneumonia on February 10, 2013.

39. They Have Highly Sophisticated Hearts

Crocodiles have the most sophisticated hearts in the animal kingdom. The heart can change the destination of the blood that flows through it, depending on where it’s needed the most. No other animal hearts function this way.

When the crocodile is submerged, the heart decides where the oxygenated blood needs to be sent. Since, when submerged, the lungs have no fresh supply of oxygen, the heart also restricts the flow of the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs, and instead sends it directly to less important areas. 

40. Hatchlings

A mother crocodile holding her young baby in her mouth. For Crocodile interesting facts
Crocodile facts: a mother crocodile carrying a hatchling in her mouth. Photo © Tjkphotography

When a mother crocodile lays eggs, she often hides them in the sand to keep them safe. When the eggs are ready to hatch, they make noises in the egg that their mother can hear. When the mother hears their voices, she’ll dig up the eggs and take the hatchlings to the water in her mouth.

41. Young Crocodiles

Thin, tiny, and shy. Baby crocodiles emerge from eggs weighing around two ounces and measuring 8 to 12 inches. They eat insects and other small prey, hunting at night to avoid predators and spending the day in their mother’s mouth.

42. Crocodiles Don’t Sweat

Most people know dogs don’t sweat and pant when they’re hot. Crocodiles can’t sweat either and open their mouths when they’re hot, which is known as mouth gaping and is very similar to panting.

If you see a crocodile with its mouth wide open, don’t panic. It’s likely sleeping and keeps its mouth open to release the heat.

43. Crocodiles Go Though 4,000 Teeth In Their Lifetimes

Crocodiles have between 60 and 110 teeth, including 24 very sharp teeth that aren’t used for chewing. Crocodiles often lose teeth when they eat, and there’s always another tooth ready to replace it.

Crocodiles can replace all of their teeth up to 50 times throughout their lives. Wouldn’t it be great if humans could also regenerate teeth this way?

44. You Can See A Crocodile’s Teeth

Saltwater crocodile teeth. Crocodile fact file
Crocodile facts: the saltwater crocodile’s teeth. Photo © Hotshotsworldwide

You can easily tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile when their mouths are closed.

Alligators have a slight depression in the upper jaw, and you cannot see their teeth when their mouths are closed. Crocodiles don’t have this depression; and the upper and lower jaw are the same width, and you can see their teeth even when their mouths are closed.

45. Sensitive Pressure Receptors

If you zoom in, you’ll see black spots around crocodile mouths. These domed pressure receptors monitor water disturbance, helping them hunt in total darkness. A single drop of water? They’ll feel the waves scatter. A juicy fish? They’ll know where it is. Is this fact on your list of the top ten facts about crocodiles?

46. Their Ancestors Were Much Bigger

Crocodiles have been walking the Earth for 200 million years, but their prehistoric ancestors were much bigger than they are today.

Based on fossil evidence, prehistoric crocodiles grew to be 40 feet long, weighing 17,600 pounds. Although modern crocodiles are much smaller, they look very familiar to their prehistoric ancestors.

47. Crocodiles Can Find Their Way Home

Crocodiles can go far from home without getting lost, and many scientists believe they have a homing instinct.

Three rouge saltwater crocodiles were taken from their home by helicopter and were relocated 249 miles away. Trackers were placed on the crocodiles and basted on the tracking data, and they returned to their original locations three weeks later.

48. Large Crocodiles Can Go Over a Year Without Food

Crocodiles have extremely efficient metabolism and store and use everything they consume. A crocodile can go over a year without eating in extreme situations when there’s no food to be found. When they’ve gone without food for a while, their bodies can shut down, allowing them to live off their own tissue for long periods of time to keep them alive.

49. The Oldest Crocodile

The oldest crocodile was a freshwater crocodile named Mr. Freshie and lived in the Australia Zoo. He was shot twice in the tail and once in the left eye, leaving him blind and severely injured. Despite everything he had been through, Mr. Freshie lived to be 140 years old and is the oldest known crocodile in captivity.

50. It’s Illegal To Hunt Crocodiles For Their Skin

Under the Endangered Species Act, it’s illegal to hunt crocodiles for their skin in most parts of the world. It’s illegal to bring products into the U.S. made from the skin of crocodiles, alligators, and related reptiles called caimans.

51. Crocodiles Swim Very Fast

Saltwater crocodile's webbed feet
Crocodile facts. Photo © Rafael Ben Ari

Crocodiles are still very fast swimmers. They use their powerful tails to propel themselves in the water and use their webbed feet to steer.

They don’t use their webbed feet to help them propel through the water, but their webbed feet allow them to make sudden moves and fast turns in the water.

The average crocodile can swim up to 22 miles per hour.

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