|An American crocodile basking in the sun|
The American Crocodile is a ferocious predator with sharp teeth that rip through flesh and tough skin that protect from harm. Growing longer and heavier than a grown man, this animal is as dangerous as it looks but is an important part of the ecosystem and has been hunted to near extinction.
The American Crocodile is a motile endotherm that can walk on land and swim in the water with great finesse. They are large animals that can grow between 7 and 15 feet in length and weighs around 150-450 pounds. Their outer layer of skin is tough with rough scales on the dorsal side of their body and softer scales on their ventral side. They have long slender snouts and powerful jaws equipped with sharp teeth used for ripping and tearing flesh. An interesting fact about the American Crocodile is the fourth tooth on the lower jaw is always visible even when the jaw is shut. The American Crocodile has four legs for walking on land and paddling in water with the help of their powerful tail. When swimming, they cover their eyes with a special membrane that is transparent and protects their eyes from damage while swimming underwater. Their digestive system is short because they are a carnivorous animal and don't need to take long to digest plants. They have many teeth that replenish rapidly because of the rate at which they lose them.
American Crocodiles reproduce sexually once they become adults and sexually mature. They reach sexual maturity around the of 6 or 8 years. The females are oviparous and lay their eggs in nests that are mounds or holes near bodies of water. The sex of the embryo within the egg depends on the temperature that the egg was incubated in. Females are very fertile and often lay many eggs to make up for all the babies that are lost in the early stages of their life. The number of eggs lain can be anywhere from 30 to 60 eggs in one nest. Once lain, the eggs are covered and incubated by the sun. During the incubation period, females will come and go to the nest every so often but when it is near time to hatch the mother will return to the nest much more frequently. Once the babies begin to hatch the mother will begin to dig them out of the nest and assist them into the water and to nursery areas where they can be safer. As soon as the baby reaches one of these nursery sites they are left to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. 
The American Crocodile is native to North, Central, and South America but most are found in southern Mexico, the Caribbean, northern South America, and Central America. It mainly inhabits aquatic areas such as estuaries, swamps, lagoons, and fresh water and salt water mixed areas. It is an endangered species due to humans hunting them or industrializing their habitats. During the 1930s-1960s the American Crocodile's skin was very sought after so they were hunted extensively, greatly diminishing their population. Many countries have laws in place to protect them but few countries can or will enforce these laws. The American Crocodile is a carnivorous animal and primarily feeds on birds, fish, crabs, and turtles, and small mammals while the juveniles eat small fish, insects, and snails.
Efforts have been made by many countries to conserve the American Crocodiles and prevent them from becoming extinct. Falling victim to relentless hunting, the American Crocodile was nearly wiped out by hunters who were seeking their valuable skin for sale. Fortunately for the crocodiles there have been many laws passed to protect them and so they are not hunted as much or in as many places. Crocodile living near urbanized areas are often blamed for the death of domestic animals kept as pets. Now, the largest threat to the American Crocodile is the destruction of their habitat. Land that was once home to many crocodiles has been turned into cities, towns, etc.
- Crocodylus acutus: Classification by Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web
- American Crocodile National Geographic Society.
- American Crocodile Mary Sweeters. Conservation Science Institute.
- American Crocodile Defenders of Wildlife.
- The American Crocodile National Environmental & Planning Agency, Natl. Govt. of Jamaica