Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus
Also known as the estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile, this formidable predator is the world’s largest reptile, and is also one of the few crocodilians that frequently swims far out to sea. Its power and ferocity are legendary, and it is thought to be responsible for more than 1,000 human deaths a year. The saltwater crocodile has powerful jaws housing teeth up to 5 in (13 cm) long. Its immensely tough skin is covered with thick scales. The scales on its back are armored with bony deposits called osteoderms, while its tail has a double row of upright bony plates (scutes). Its nostrils close when it dives, but it cannot exclude water from its mouth. Instead, it has a valve at the entrance to its throat, which opens only when it swallows food.
It controls its body temperature by cooling down in water and warming up in the sun. Like other large crocodiles, the saltwater crocodile hunts by stealth, lurking close to the shore, hiding beneath the water with little more than its eyes and nose visible. When an animal comes within range, it bursts out of the water with explosive force, grabs its victim, and then drags it under until it drowns. Crocodiles cannot chew their food—instead, they tear it to pieces, digesting scales, skin, and even bones. Their natural prey includes birds, fish, turtles, and a wide variety of mammals, such as wild boar, monkeys, horses, and water buffalo. Females lay up to 90 eggs in a waterside mound, carrying their young to the water when they hatch. Saltwater crocodiles are hunted in many parts of their range, making large specimens rarer than they once were.