Taxonomy, Phylogeny & Etymology
Distribution & Population |
Anatomy & Physiology
Diet & Digestion
Cultural & Commercial Impact
(Image: Georgiana Wingard, U.S.
Geological Survey. Public domain.)
Distribution & Population
In North America the crocodile may be found in the
nation's small tropical and subtropical region-- from the southernmost
point of Florida in Key West, and as far
north as the latitude of Lake Okeechobee. This species is also found in
Mexico, especially along the western region, Central America, northern
South America, and the western and northern islands of the Caribbean.
This map shows, in
red-colored areas, potential habitats of the crocodile in South
Adapted from the original by University of Florida- FLREC; courtesy of same.)
While the species doesn't
tolerate the lower temperatures that its alligator cousin can, there is
a reliable report of a lone female croc (which was not an escapee from a zoo) which was
found as far north as the St. Johns River in Brevard County in central
Florida in 1993, and confirmed croc sightings in 2008 in the Manatee
River near the mouth of Tampa Bay. Reportedly, a small population has
been thriving in Sumter County of north central Florida, released captives from a local crocodile facility.
These discoveries are curious clues regarding the species'
possible extended range in Florida before human pressure had its
deleterious effect. It should be noted that the appearance of these
single specimens in the relative northerly range does not necessarily mean that a sustained
population(s) is being established there.
The species was in serious decline in Florida, and by
1970 was nearly extinct in the state, due mostly to decimation of its habitat by
humans for their industrial and residential development. The reptile was classified by U.S. wildlife authorities as endangered for many
years. In 2007 the species was downlisted to the classification,
"threatened," due to its steady increase in population, a benefit which
occurred under legal protection, scientific study and other intensive
In 1976, the
crocodile population in South Florida was deemed to be 200 to 300
individuals; the population in 2007 had grown to an estimated 1,400 to 2,000,
A crocodile was
reported to have taken a domestic dog as prey at
a Key Biscayne golf course in the autumn of 2015 and
again in February 2017, occurrences
typically involving an alligator rather than a crocodile. This and other such
incidents of the competing purposes of crocs and humans, though
not without their drawbacks, are encouraging signs of the once
endangered crocodile species' comeback.
Despite its ecological resilience, this reptile has had to adapt
to the settlement of humans in the New World, who destroy its
habitat by indiscreet residential and industrial development, hunt it for it for products such as meat and hide, and
kill it out
of fear. This crocodile is a relatively 'shy' animal compared to
other crocodilians, and is less likely to remain visible in the vicinity
A group of
the crocodiles (perhaps 10% of the state's population) thrived
as a colony for years at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant of Florida Power &
Light (FPL) near Miami, where the man-made canals used for cooling the reactors
of the plant provide comfortably warm waters for these reptiles
and other animals, especially during the cooler months.
Unfortunately, crocs are leaving the area, probably because of
the rise of algae blooms, of water temperatures and of salinity
levels, which have been measured at more than double the croc's
tolerance level. Reportedly, poor canal design by FPL may be to
blame. Elevated levels of ammonia and phosphorus may also be
caused by this problem, which would result in peril to
local marine life.
This crocodile, basking at water's edge at Cape Sable in
Everglades National Park, may have been photographed with a zoom lens
from a distance. Typically, if a human or boat approaches the
croc, it will, in a furious burst of energy, dash into the
security of the water. By comparison, the alligator usually
allows a closer approach, though a crocodile that is
desentitized to human presence may be as tolerant.
(Image: National Park Service)
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