By Alastair Papworth

Top Three Fascinating Facts

 

VOTE NOW for Crocodiles in our Jurassic Coast Big Five competition

 

A Surprising Fact

The skin on the back of a crocodile is very tough. So tough that it is, in fact, bullet proof! It is made of osteoderms which are bony scales that are used as protection.

swanage crocodile goniopholis

Fossilised skull of the ‘Swanage Crocodile’ Goniopholis, discovered near Swanage.

 

Why should you vote for Crocodiles?

200 million year-old crocodile bones and teeth have been discovered along the Jurassic Coast, with some fantastic specimens originating from the Purbeck Beds at Swanage. A new species of crocodile, Goniopholis, was discovered here and is now on display in Dorset County Museum.

Based on this fossil evidence, we can conclude that crocodiles first emerged at the same time as the first dinosaurs. This means they were capable of hunting dinosaurs in much the same way as they hunt the zebra and impala that roam Africa today.

Feared in the animal kingdom, crocodiles are known as a living dinosaur and are one of the most capable ambush predators ever to have lived. They hibernate for several months. During this time, they lower their heart rate from 40 beats per minute to just five beats per minute. This adaptation is one of the most important to their success as without it, they would give away their position by always surfacing for air.

They float over to unaware prey, using their camouflage to look like a log before snapping their powerful jaws in under 50 milliseconds at prey, causing it to fall into the water. They then drown their prey. Crocodile jaws are super sensitive and can detect the tiniest movements in the water. This gives them the ability to find out when their prey is drinking from the water. Their inability to move their jaws means they must tear flesh off prey by clamping their jaws on a carcass and rolling to rip the meat off. This is known as a ‘Death Roll’.

Their stomach acid is so strong that crocodiles release an alkaline solution to neutralise it so that they do not digest themselves! They show off their 24, very sharp teeth when they sleep because they keep their mouths open to cool down. During night time when they are active, their eyes appear as ‘evil’ red dots as they have very good vision which is needed to see their prey from murky water.

They are the largest reptiles on Earth with the strongest bite in the world. They are known to be fierce by the native tribes that live near them, to the point that their skin is known as a status symbol, worn by chiefs and leaders. Before humans evolved, they were at the top of the food chain, unmatched by any other.