Morelet's Crocodile facts
The Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) is found in country's like Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. It was the French naturalist, Morelet, who discovered in the mid-nineteenth century this new crocodile species, hence its scientific name.
They are also known by other common and regional names like Central American crocodile, Mexican crocodile or Belize crocodile or alligator, or in Spanish "Cocodrilo de Pantano". This species can can measure up to 4.7 meters in total length with an average length of around 3 meters. Females are smaller than males.
The Morelet's crocodile prefers the fresh water from rivers and swamps, that does not stop him to survive in coastal areas and marshlands of southeastern Mexico (where lives 85% of the total world population) to Belize and Guatemala. He shares the habitat of the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).
It is a species of preferably aquatic habits,is also capable of moving on land, even if is more difficult, than in water. Its head is wide and has a rounded snout. Morelet's crocodiles are generally considered very shy around humans, however the largest specimens may attack.
This species is similar in color to the American crocodile, but they are a bit darker. They present a dark grayish-brown color, with darker bands and spots on their body and tail. Juveniles are of a bright yellow color, with some black bands.
They lack ventral osteoderms, the bony plates under the skin, and their skin is therefore highly valuable for tanning. The have powerful legs wish end in clawed and webbed feet. The tail is also very powerful, and allows them to swim using powerful thrusts.
Morelet's crocodile - Diet
Juveniles and smaller crocodiles feed on insects, mollusks and small fish and mammals. Adults are carnivorous, and feed mostly on larger prey, like fish, birds, lizards, and turtles like the Kinosternon mud turtle, or even carrion. Even their own species is at risk, they will not disdain eating the juveniles of their own species. They will also attack and eat domestic animals like dogs.
Morelet's crocodile - Reproduction
This species reaches sexual maturity when they are about a decade old. Morelet's crocodile females build mound nests only, unlike other North American crocodile species wish build also mound and hole nests. The breeding season takes place from April to June and before the start of the rainy season the eggs are laid.
The female deposits in each clutch, dozens of eggs (up to forty-five), which hatch after about three months (about eighty days.), the female will guard the nest during the entire incubation period. Both the female and the male will protect the juveniles from natural predators. After birth, it is curious to see how the mother carries the offspring inside her mouth to move them into the water.
Morelet's crocodile - Conservation status and major threats
From the 1940's to the 1950's, the Morelet's crocodile valuable skin lead them to be hunted almost to extinction. It was subject to significant hunting pressure because their skin is highly prized for making bags or shoes. Although at present, the species is still in danger of extinction, it has experienced a remarkable recovery by comparing their current numbers with the populations which remained halfway through the century of the XX century.
To this hunting pressure must be added the fact that, in some parts on their range, humans use the eggs of these crocodiles for food. Currently, work is being done in the captive breeding of the species for commercial use of their skin. In Sinaloa, near Culiacán, there is is a company dedicated to this activity, wish has more individuals than all of those who live in their natural habitat.
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