Today’s Wonder of the Day takes us deep into the swamp. We’re learning about a rather large animal that lives there. It walks—and swims—using its four legs and long tail. It loves to lurk in the water but can hunt on dry land as well. Have you guessed what it is? Here’s one more hint: This animal has a long snout full of razor-sharp teeth. That’s right! We’re talking about one of the swamp’s greatest predators—the crocodile!
The word “crocodile” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “lizard.” The crocodile is no ordinary lizard, though. In fact, crocodiles have more in common with birds and dinosaurs than today’s reptiles!
How big do crocodiles get? That depends. There are sixteen species of crocodiles, and their sizes vary. The dwarf crocodile is between five and six feet (1.5-1.9 meters) in length. On the other hand, the saltwater crocodile can be over 23 feet (7 meters) long! In American swamps, you’re most likely to run into the American crocodile. They are among the largest of the world’s crocodiles and may grow as long as 20 feet!
Some American crocodiles live in southern Florida. However, most of them live in the swamps and wetlands of southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It’s also considered an endangered species. Experts believe American crocodile numbers have fallen for two reasons: illegal hunting and loss of swamp habitats.
Crocodiles are excellent hunters. They tend to lie in wait until another animal is close. They attack suddenly, taking their prey by surprise. Their long, sleek bodies allow them to swim very quickly to catch prey. They can also move quickly on land over short distances. Crocodiles feed mainly on small mammals, birds, fish, and frogs.
Just how strong is a crocodile’s bite? Their large jaws are very powerful. They have the strongest bite of any animal. Large crocodiles can bite down with a force of over 5,000 pounds per square inch. That’s stronger than a Rottweiler, and hyena, or even a great white shark!
That’s another trait that makes crocodiles successful predators. Any prey caught in their jaws is unlikely to get away. Have you ever seen a crocodile? If you do, head in the other direction. Unlike many other animals, crocodiles are definitely dangerous to humans. This is one animal you don’t want to meet in a dark alley!
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS4.C, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.4