Crocodiles are an ancient lineage and are believed to have changed little since the time of the dinosaurs. Despite this, they are the most advanced reptile of our time.
Unlike other reptiles they have a four-chambered heart, diaphragm and cerebral cortex (a structure within the vertebrate brain with distinct structural and functional properties). They share many similarities to other crocodilian species – alligators and caiman, but there are some very important features that baby crocodiles have that other crocodilians don’t.
Here are some awesome baby crocodile facts, as well as some picture and answers to frequently asked questions about these fantastic and ancient creatures.
7 Baby Crocodile Facts
Baby Crocodiles Are Called Hatchlings
Baby crocodiles are very similar to alligators in the sense that they both start their lives in eggs, together in a ‘clutch‘ which is laid in a ‘nest‘. When they break free of their egg they become ‘hatchlings‘. Mother crocodiles are called ‘cows‘ and male crocs are ‘bulls‘. They are also sometimes collectively known as a ‘congregation‘, the same as alligators.
A group of young hatchling crocs is collectively known as a ‘pod‘ or a ‘crèche‘ of crocodiles, which is commonly used in Zoology to refer to the care of young animals in a group or colony.
Young alligators that make it to their first year are called ‘yearlings‘, then subadults, and finally when they reach sexual maturity they are adults.
Crocodiles are social animals and do often grow to live in areas with many other crocs. They don’t organize themselves in formal ‘groups’ as such, buy share area, resources and tasks. There are different terms used to describe crocs that are together on land and in the water though.
When they are laying around in the sun on land, a group of crocs is collectively known as a ‘bask of crocodiles‘, whereas when in the water they are collectively known as a ‘float of crocodiles‘.
Baby Crocodiles Live In Larger Groups
Although most reptiles live alone, many crocodilian species gather in huge gatherings. They hang out at basking areas and sunbathe rather closely together. Groups regularly compete for desirable sections of a big catch, such as a buffalo.
Crocodiles live in groups to share the burden and take turns hunting and resting, cooperate in active hunting, and protect the young. Crocodiles in groups can protect their young from predators. This is especially important for species that lay their eggs on land, like the American crocodile.
Unlike other reptiles that are usually solitary, crocodiles do well together in informal groups and collaboration plays a big part in their success and survival.
Mortality Rates Are Incredibly High With Baby Crocodiles
The chances of a baby crocodile reaching their first birthday are around a hundred to one. Take a moment to digest that. Adult crocodiles are large, apex predators with very few predators of their own to worry about, and so we usually think of them as being strong, hardy and resilient. But young crocodiles are vulnerable. Especially in the egg or hatchling stage of life. At this time, they are dependant on their parents and very vulnerable.
While humans pose one of the biggest dangers to crocodiles – with habitat loss, hunting, killing for protection and our impact on the climate – there are many predators that also pose a massive risk to baby crocodiles. These include lizards (especially the Nile Monitor Lizard), birds of prey, raccoons, mongoose, hyenas, big cats such as leopards and even turtles have been known to snack on crocodile eggs.
By the time a crocodile reaches 5 years old, it is estimated that perhaps 50% will make it to the next year and on to adulthood. But only around 1 in 1000 are thought to get from the egg to the age of 5. It’s a good thing they lay a lot of eggs!
Baby Crocodiles Have Lots Of Teeth
Baby crocodiles are born with around 60 teeth! This does differ though depending on the species of crocodile. One of these teeth is incredibly important as it helps them to breach their egg shell when the times comes. This is known as the ‘egg tooth’, and they lose this tooth shortly after they hatch.
Unlike their other teeth, the egg tooth or ‘caruncle‘ is located on the Crocodiles nose. Some birds and other crocodilians also have a similar egg tooth when they hatch.
As they grow, crocodiles maintain a set of up to 60 incredibly sharp teeth, and any lost teeth are constantly being replaced. Even as baby crocodiles they lose their teeth regularly, which helps to keep them healthy.
Animals that develop teeth many times in life are known as Polyphyodonts, which means that their teeth are constantly being replaced.
Most species of mammal, including humans, are diphyodonts, meaning we have two sets of teeth in our life, baby teeth and then a set of permanent teeth.
Baby Crocodiles Have a Strong Paternal Bond
It’s rare for reptile species to have protective, paternal instincts for their offspring, but both crocodiles and alligators are rare exceptions that do. females are fiercely protective of their young.
A mother crocodile cow will stay with her young for up to two years, making sure they are fed and safe. When they hatch from their eggs, the mother crocodile transports her babies from their terrestrial nest, in her mouth to the safety of the water.
Crocodile are one of the rare reptilian species where the male also has a paternal instinct. It was once thought males played only a minor role in parenting but this has been challenged with more recent observations. If the mother is not there, the male bull croc will transport the babies, and will also look after them.
In habitats with several nests, they often hatch at a similar time, and males play an active part in protecting the new-born hatchlings from any would be predators. This has been observed particularly with crocodiles living in India.
Temperature Can Determine The Gender Of A Hatchling
Depending on the temperature during the first half of the incubation period, either male or female crocodiles will be produced within the egg.
If the eggs are incubated over 91-93 °F (34 °C), the embryo develops normally as a male; temperatures below 86 °F (30 °C) normally result in female embryos. Between these temperatures, both sexes are produced, but females more often than males.
The eggs in a crocodile nest hatch around 9-10 weeks following their deposit, producing hatchlings about 7-10 inches long (18-25 centimetres). Some are a bit bigger, such as Nile crocodile hatchlings, which can be up to 12 inches long out of the shell.
Some Baby Crocodiles Can Learn To Climb
You might think, given the anatomy of a crocodiles, their shape and appendages, that they are not built for climbing. That they would struggle to drag themselves up a tree or to get back down again.
Well, if you are ever running away from a croc I wouldn’t advise climbing a tree to get away, because believe it or not, some baby crocodiles can indeed learn to climb. Juveniles are better climbers than adults, being of lighter weight and size – they can reach higher branches up to around 4-6 meters off the ground. Adult crocs can still climb, but tend to stick to the lower branches of a tree.
Climbing has been observed with several species of crocodile in Africa, North America and in Australia. Four species have been identified as being very good climbers and these include dwarf crocodiles in Africa and Australia’s freshwater crocodiles. The African dwarves are the best climbers, and freshwater crocs are better climbers than saltwater crocs.
Baby Crocodile FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Crocodile?
Baby crocodiles incubate in their eggs for around 9-10 weeks once laid in their nest. They will remain buried in their nest until their parent – usually the mother – digs them out and transports them to the water.
They will stay with their mother for up to the first two years of their life, though younglings will disperse sooner than this in areas where food and resources is harder to come by, forcing them further afield. They won’t reach sexual maturity until they reach about 10-15 years of age, but only a small percentage of them are lucky enough to get this far in the wild.
Of those that reach the age of 5, around half will reach maturity. Once they are mature, adult crocodiles they have a much greater chance of reaching old age. At this stage they are kings of their environment, and apex predators.
The oldest crocodilians are estimated to have lived around 71 years on average and there is limited evidence that some individuals may exceed 100 years. One of the oldest crocodiles recorded died in a zoo in Russia apparently aged 115 years old. Most adult crocs are believed to have an average life expectancy around 50 years of age.
How Many Baby Crocodiles Are Born In A Nest?
A mother crocodile will lay around 40-60 eggs in a clutch and burry them in a nest. Not all the eggs will hatch though. Around half to two thirds of the eggs will hatch. The success of a nest very much depends on managing to avoid predators however. For example, a successful raid on a nest by a raccoon, can decimate a clutch of eggs.
Are Father Crocodiles Paternal?
While it was once thought that male crocodiles played a minor role in the parenting of their young, there is evidence to suggest that. at least in some cases, they can perform the same tasks of protection and transportation that mother crocodiles are mostly known for. This is rare for any reptilian species.
How Quick Do Baby Crocodiles Grow?
Despite their large adult size, crocodiles start their life at around 20 centimetres long. For the first few years of life, similarly to alligators, baby crocs will grow about 1 foot per year. They do this for the first 4 to 5 years, then growth slows.
By the time they reach ten years old, they will be on average between 5-10 feet (1.5-3 meters) in length. Some breeds are bigger than others however.
The saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile and crocodilian known. Males grow to a length of up to 6 m (20 ft), rarely exceeding 6.3 m (21 ft) or a weight of 1,000–1,300 kg (2,200–2,900 lb). Females are much smaller and rarely surpass 3 m (10 ft)
Size greatly varies between species, from the Dwarf Crocodile to the enormous Saltwater Crocodile.
What Do Baby Crocodiles Eat?
Baby crocodiles eat small prey, such as insects, tadpoles, small frogs and small fish. As they grow, they more onto larger prey but it can be a few years until they are sharing the same kind of prey that adult crocs are able to devour.
Where Do Baby Crocodiles Live?
Baby crocodiles are born as hatchlings in nests on land mostly around swamps, lagoons and rivers. Then once hatched, they live in and around the water, basking in the sun amongst their larger family members and neighbors.
The crocodile is more widely distributed throughout the world than the alligator, and one reason for their huge range is their ability to tolerate saltwater, which is uncommon among alligators.
Crocodiles can be found in lagoons, islands, slow moving rivers, mangrove swamps and lakes around Africa, Australia, Southern part of North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Crocodiles?
While adult crocodiles don’t have many natural predators to worry about other than humans, baby crocs have many. Predators like raccoons and mongoose can decimate a clutch of crocodile eggs and pose a huge threat to any discovered nest. Many eggs in a nest will never hatch because of predation.
What Are The Differences Between Baby Crocs And Baby Alligators?
There are a few differences between baby crocodiles and baby alligators, including:
- Crocodiles have more pointy, V-shaped snouts than alligators
- Alligators have wider upper jaws hiding their teeth when their jaws are closed.
- A Crocodile’s teeth are visible when their mouth is closed because they stick out over the upper lip
- Crocodiles can be found in freshwater and saltwater habitats whereas alligators can only live in freshwater marshes and lakes. They might visit saltwater, but they can’t live there.
- All crocodiles have special glands in their tongue that help them process (and get rid of) excess salt