Marine Biology

The Diet and Feeding Habits of the Nile Crocodile



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The Nile Crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus, is a formidable predator, once revered by the Ancient Egyptians but now much reduced in numbers by over hunting and habitat destruction. Its range includes Madagascar, Egypt and central Africa, as far south as Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It favors large rivers, lakes, estuaries, wetlands and mangrove swamps.

Although perfectly adapted to life in the water, the Nile Crocodile has a good turn of speed on land, running at up to 10 MPH for short distances. It hunts by ambush most of the time. Typically, it will lie close to the water's edge, hoping to snatch mammals, birds or reptiles as they come to drink. Its eyes, ears and nostrils are all on the top of its head, so it can remain motionless for long periods almost totally submerged and invisible to its prey. It can take mammals up to the size of Wildebeest and Zebras and each year it is estimated that around 1000 humans are killed too. Once it has seized its victim in its massively powerful jaws, the Nile Crocodile submerges, dragging the prey underwater gripped by its long teeth, and drowns it. Smaller prey such as fish, birds and reptiles are eaten whole. Carrion is also eaten, including carcasses of dead animals such as Hippos.

As its jaws are not adapted for chewing, the food is consumed in large chunks. These are torn off by the crocodile twisting its own body violently whilst gripping part of the prey in its jaws, the so called 'death roll'. It eats every part of the prey, bones and antlers included. Bony flaps in its throat enable it to eat and swallow underwater if it chooses.

At an average of 3.5 meters, about 12 feet, in length, but with some specimens reaching 6 meters, around 20 feet, the Nile Crocodile is second only to the Estuarine Crocodile in size.
Apart from Man, only the jaws of adult Hippopotamuses can pose a threat to this magnificent beast.

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