The Crocodilian Paddock
Members of the subclass archosaur, crocodilians have been discovered in the same rock layers as popular dinosaurs. The Protosuchus crocodile has been found in the Triassic and Deinosuchus in the late Cretaceous. Some of these specimens appear from their hip and leg bones to be more agile (even able to walk bipedally) and arguably better “fit” than today’s varieties. A fossil crocodilian has been found with molars, giving evidence that the ancient ancestors were omnivorous (again exhibiting loss of function over time).
Modern crocodilians are found in Australia, tropical Africa, Asia, and in parts of the Americas. They can swim or float along the surface of the water with only their eyes and nostrils exposed. Most crocs hunt at night and bask through the day. Because they are cold-blooded, a crocodile may survive on only a chicken every month. In cool weather, they can go up to a year without eating! Crocodilians have the strongest known bite among living animals…estimated up to 4000 PSI force! This approaches what we believe was the bite force of the large theropod dinosaurs like T-rex. But crocodilians have surprisingly weak muscles for opening their jaws. A rubber band at the tip (or even a child’s hand) can hold their mouth closed. You may be surprised to learn that crocodiles can chirp much like a bird. (Listen and hear for yourself.) Learn more about specific crocodilians on the links below.