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The Cuban Crocodile has a short, broad head with a bony ridge behind the eyes. Scales from the dorsal shield extend onto the back of the neck, and the scales on the legs are larger than on other crocodilians. Males rarely exceed 10.5 feet in length, but specimens up to 15 feet have been recorded; females are smaller.
Coloration is darker on the top portion of the body, and consists of a characteristic pattern of black and yellow speckles. The belly of the Cuban Crocodile is pale with no distinctive markings. The tail is marked with black blotches and/or bands. White eyelid edges give the Cuban Crocodile a bespectacled look. Juveniles are more yellowish and spotted than adults.
Feet with reduced webbing aid the Cuban Crocodile on land, enabling them to move with increased agility and power compared to other crocodilians. A strong tail aids the Cuban Crocodile in both jumping and swimming.
Cuban Crocodiles have a total of 66-68 large teeth, especially adapted for crushing turtle shells.
Distribution and Habitat
The Cuban Crocodile is found only in Cuba in the Zapata Swamp in the northwest, and in the Lanier Swamp on Isla de Juventud. It prefers fresh water marshes or swamps similar to those of the Everglades, only rarely entering saltwater.
Juveniles of the species tend to feed on arthropods and small fish, while adults eat fish, turtles, and small mammals. They ambush prey by floating or swimming in the water and leaping out of the water.
Little is known regarding the nesting behavior of the Cuban Crocodile in the wild, but it is generally believed that its habits are similar to those of other crocodilians. Depending upon conditions, Cuban Crocodiles either dig hole nests or construct hole nests. Breeding season generally begins in May and lasts for three to four months. 30-40 eggs are typically produced, although as many as 60 are possible. The eggs are approximately 2-3 inches in length and weigh an average of 0.25 pounds. The eggs typically hatch 58-70 days after they are laid. Sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest. Males occur only when internal nest temperatures are between 30-32 degrees Celcius, while females are produced in nests that are above or below these temperatures.
Maximum lifespan in the wild is unknown.
Cuban Crocodiles are strong swimmers and are also adept at walking and jumping, making them equally at home in water or on land.
They generally cooperate when hunting or feeding, but still relate to each other according to a hierarchy of dominance based on gender, size and temperment.
One of the most endangered crocodilians in the world, the Cuban Crocodile is threatened by hunting and habitat encroachment. An exact population is unknown, but it is believed that there are 3,000-6,000 in the wild.
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This page was last updated on October 30, 2017.