The awesome anatomy of the crocodile

The crocodile rocks: A crocodile dozing off next to the water might look like a slow and clumsy animal, but in actual fact his anatomy is rather complex. We take a look at how he is well designed to thrive in his habitat.


The crocodile is symmetrical and streamlined, making him an excellent swimmer. Webbed feet also assist in helping him move under water. With his short limbs the croc can only run up to around 17km/h, but, with the help of the above-mentioned factors along with his small tail, he can swim at speeds of up to 32km/h. He can hold his breath for up to an hour under water. The croc doesn’t end up swallowing litres of water while swimming thanks to strong tissue at the back of his mouth, called a palatal flap, which prevents this from happening. He can also close his nostrils when he goes under water


The well-known saying ‘crying crocodile tears’ refers to a person who is false in their display of emotion. Crocodile tears are real though! A fluid is secreted behind their third eyelid, which helps to clean the eye, provides lubrication and reduces bacteria. Interestingly, butterflies and bees have been found to drink crocodile tears. This is thought to help them obtain salt, as their natural diets of nectar does not contain much of it, but they still need it for egg production and to aid in their met

10 to 16

The number of eggs a crocodile lays at a time


The length that the saltwater crocodile can

17 to 25cm

The length of a newborn crocodile


The number of chambers in a crocodile’s heart


The crocodile has extremely sharp teeth and a jaw so strong that once it’s clamped shut, it’s almost impossible to open unless this is what the croc wants to do. The powerful jaws, which can easily bite through a human limb, are used to clamp down on their prey, crush it and then swallow it whole. Shouldthe crocodile lose a tooth, itis quickly replaced – a crocodile can go through up to 8,000 teeth in his lifetime. This animal is not capable of biting off and chewing chunks of food, therefore he swallows little stones to aid in digestion. These stones grind up the foo

Clever Crocs

While the crocodile’s brain is on the small side, he is still capable of complex behaviours. The croc possesses a cerebral cortex. This is the part of the brain that
is linked to intelligence, memory and awareness. An example of his intelligence is recent research showing that the crocodile will balance a twig on his nose during nesting season, and then remain completely still, in order to lure an unsuspecting bird into becoming his prey.


The crocodile has a tough, scaly skin which is almost impossible to penetrate, with a soft, smooth belly. The croc’s skin does not have any sweat glands, which is why we so often see them resting with their mouths wide open. This behaviour is called ‘mouth gaping’, and is similar to a dog panting to stay cool. Sadly the crocodile faces threats from humans. They are hunted for their skins, which are used to make a variety of leather products. Almost all species of crocodile face extinction because of poaching.


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