Crocodiles (family Crocodylidae) or true crocodiles are large semiaquatic reptiles that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. The term crocodile is sometimes used even more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia, which includes the alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae), the gharial and false gharial (family Gavialidae) among other extinct taxa.
Pritish Kumar Halder explained about Crocodiles a very big size and Mouth semiaquatic reptiles.
A crocodile’s physical traits allow it to be a successful predator. Its external morphology is a sign of its aquatic and predatory lifestyle. Its streamlined body enables it to swim swiftly; it also tucks its feet to the side while swimming, making it faster by decreasing water resistance. Crocodiles have webbed feet which, though not used to propel them through the water, allow them to make fast turns and sudden moves in the water or initiate swimming.
Webbed feet are an advantage in shallow water, where the animals sometimes move around by walking. Crocodiles have a palatal flap, a rigid tissue at the back of the mouth that blocks the entry of water. The palate has a special path from the nostril to the glottis that bypasses the mouth. The nostrils are closed during submergence.
Size greatly varies among species, from the dwarf crocodile to the saltwater crocodile. Species of the dwarf crocodile Osteolaemus grow to an adult size of just 1.5 to 1.9 m (4.9 to 6.2 ft), whereas the saltwater crocodile can grow to sizes over 6 m (20 ft) and weigh over 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). Several other large species can reach over 5.2 m (17 ft) long and weigh over 900 kg (2,000 lb).
Crocodilians show pronounced sexual dimorphism, with males growing much larger and more rapidly than females. Despite their large adult sizes, crocodiles start their lives at around 20 cm (7.9 in) long. The largest species of crocodile is the saltwater crocodile, found in eastern India, northern Australia, throughout South-east Asia, and in the surrounding waters.
The brain volume of two adult crocodiles was 5.6 cm3 for a spectacled caiman and 8.5 cm3 for a larger Nile crocodile.
The largest crocodile ever held in captivity is a saltwater–Siamese hybrid named Yai the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo, Thailand. This animal measures 6 m (20 ft) in length and weighs 1,200 kg (2,600 lb).
The longest crocodile captured alive was Lolong, a saltwater crocodile which was measured at 6.17 m (20.2 ft) and weighed at 1,075 kg (2,370 lb) by a National Geographic team in Agusan del Sur Province, Philippines.
Crocodiles are polyphyodonts; they are able to replace each of their 80 teeth up to 50 times in their 35- to 75-year lifespan. Next to each full-grown tooth, there is a small replacement tooth and an odontogenic stem cell in the dental lamina in standby that can be activated if required.
Crocodiles have acute senses, an evolutionary advantage that makes them successful predators. The eyes, ears and nostrils are located on top of the head, allowing the crocodile to lie low in the water, almost totally submerged and hidden from prey.
Crocodiles have very good night vision, and are mostly nocturnal hunters. They use the disadvantage of most prey animals’ poor nocturnal vision to their advantage. The light receptors in crocodilians’ eyes include cones and numerous rods, so it is assumed all crocodilians can see colours. Crocodiles have vertical-slit shaped pupils, similar to those of domestic cats. One explanation for the evolution of slit pupils is that they exclude light more effectively than a circular pupil, helping to protect the eyes during daylight.
On the rear wall of the eye is a tapetum lucidum, which reflects incoming light back onto the retina, thus utilizing the small amount of light available at night to best advantage. In addition to the protection of the upper and lower eyelids, crocodiles have a nictitating membrane (sometimes called a “third eye-lid”) that can be drawn over the eye from the inner corner while the lids are open. The eyeball surface is thus protected under the water while a certain degree of vision is still possible.
Crocodilian sense of smell is also very well developed, aiding them to detect prey or animal carcasses that are either on land or in water, from far away. It is possible that crocodiles use olfaction in the egg prior to hatching.
Chemoreception in crocodiles is especially interesting because they hunt in both terrestrial and aquatic surroundings. Crocodiles have only one olfactory chamber and the vomeronasal organ is absent in the adults indicating all olfactory perception is limited to the olfactory system.
Behavioral and olfactometer experiments indicate that crocodiles detect both air-borne and water-soluble chemicals and use their olfactory system for hunting. When above water, crocodiles enhance their ability to detect volatile odorants by gular pumping, a rhythmic movement of the floor of the pharynx. Crocodiles close their nostrils when submerged, so olfaction underwater is unlikely. Underwater food detection is presumably gustatory and tactile.
Crocodiles can hear well; their tympanic membranes are concealed by flat flaps that may be raised or lowered by muscles.
The touch sensors, concentrated in crocodile skin, can be thicker than those in human fingerprints. Crocodiles can feel the touch on their skin.
Cranial: The upper and lower jaws are covered with sensory pits, visible as small, black speckles on the skin, the crocodilian version of the lateral line organs seen in fish and many amphibians, though arising from a completely different origin. These pigmented nodules encase bundles of nerve fibers innervated beneath by branches of the trigeminal nerve. They respond to the slightest disturbance in surface water, detecting vibrations and small pressure changes as small as a single drop. This makes it possible for crocodiles to detect prey, danger and intruders, even in total darkness. These sense organs are known as domed pressure receptors (DPRs).
Post-Cranial: While alligators and caimans have DPRs only on their jaws, crocodiles have similar organs on almost every scale on their bodies. The function of the DPRs on the jaws is clear; to catch prey, but it is still not clear what the function is of the organs on the rest of the body.
Crocodiles are ambush predators, waiting for fish or land animals to come close, then rushing out to attack. Crocodiles mostly eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, reptiles, and mammals, and they occasionally cannibalize smaller crocodiles. What a crocodile eats varies greatly with species, size and age. From the mostly fish-eating species, like the slender-snouted and freshwater crocodiles, to the larger species like the Nile crocodile and the saltwater crocodile that prey on large mammals, such as buffalo, deer and wild boar, diet shows great diversity.
Crocodiles lay eggs, which are laid in either holes or mound nests, depending on species. A hole nest is usually excavated in sand and a mound nest is usually constructed out of vegetation. Nesting periods range from a few weeks up to six months. Courtship takes place in a series of behavioral interactions that include a variety of snout rubbing and submissive display that can take a long time. Mating always takes place in water, where the pair can be observed mating several times. Females can build or dig several trial nests which appear incomplete and abandoned later. Egg-laying usually takes place at night and about 30–40 minutes.