One of the oldest living species on earth, the Nile crocodile is a direct descendant of the ancient dinosaurs.

These giant aquatic predators strike fear into the hearts of many, and for good reason!

What is the Nile Crocodile?

The apex predator of Africa’s inland waterways, the Nile crocodile carries a fearsome reputation among those who live in close quarters with them.

The Nile crocodile is the second largest reptile species on earth, after another crocodilian – the saltwater crocodile.

They are large and aggressive, a dangerous combination, and pose a great threat to humans and animals alike.

Crocodile vs Alligator

Crocodiles and Alligators are very similar in appearance so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re unable to tell the difference!

While both grow to giant adult sizes, crocodiles are the larger of the two and reach longer lengths. Alligators tend be be bulkier and broader.

The most obvious differences are colouration, snout shape and geographic location. A crocodile’s snout is slender and triangular in shape, while an alligator’s is broad and round.

American Alligator | (@preetalina)

An alligator’s skin is dark grey or black, while crocodiles are green or olive in colour.

Regarding location, the natural range of alligators and crocodiles do overlap to a degree. Alligators are only found in America, where both native and invasive crocodile species occur. However if you see a crocodilian in America, it is more than likely an alligator.

While fundamentally the alligator and crocodile are quite similar, the Nile crocodile has many features that make it stand out.

Appearance

How Big Is The Nile Crocodile?

With reptiles, females are usually bigger than males, however this is different in crocodiles. A large male Nile crocodile can grow to over 20ft. (6m+) long from their snout to the tip of their tails, while the average adult female grows to between 9 and 12ft. (3-4m).

Crocodiles are thick, heavy built reptiles and the weight of a Nile crocodile varies according to their length and gender.

Nile crocodile feeding on a cat fish
Nile crocodile feeding on a cat fish | Jens Cullman (@jens_cullman)

A 20 foot male can be as wide as 5ft. (1.5m) at the belly, and tip the scales at more than a tonne. The weight of an adult female is usually significantly less at between 220 and 660lbs. (100-300kg), but exceptionally large individuals do occur.

Nile Crocodile Skin

Crocodiles have thick, leathery skin that functions like a reptilian armour. Their colouration is dark or olive green, but fades into grey as they get older. They are also covered in black/brown markings. Reptile skin became popular during the mid 90’s and Nile crocodile skin was one of the most popular sources of reptile leather.

How Many Teeth Do Nile Crocodiles Have?

Nile crocodiles have between 64 and 68 teeth. They are thick, slightly curved and conical, designed to inflict maximum damage. Their teeth are spread out fairly wide apart and are a mix of smaller and larger teeth.

They have immense bite force, and once their teeth have sunken into a prey item, its near on impossible to loosen their grip.

Large Nile crocodile cannibalising a smaller crocodile
Large Nile crocodile cannibalising a smaller crocodile | (@timdriman)

Nile Crocodile Tail

Nile crocodiles have a thick, long tail which extends to around the same length as the rest of their body. Their tail shares the same colouration and patterning as the rest of the body, and is lined with parallel rows of plate-like scales on either side. The modern day version of spikes down a dinosaur’s back.

These powerful tails propel them through the water and can generate a lot of force, including allowing them to launch three-quarters of their body directly out the water.

This behaviour is mainly observed in tourism areas where crocodiles are fed, but can also be seen in wild feeding behaviour. When in the water, the crocodile’s tail is the main driving force, although they do also have webbed-feet.

When on land, a crocodile will also use its tail as a powerful whip to push a potential threat/prey towards their mouths.

Behaviour

Nile crocodiles spend much of their time basking on river banks or small islands. Typical for reptiles, they are unable to control their internal body temperature, and this has to be done by lying in the sun.

They can be seen basking for hours on end, often with mouths wide open. They do this to allow excess heat to leave their bodies through their mouths and avoid overheating.

Large nile crocodile basking with open mouth
Large nile crocodile basking with open mouth | (@rangerkidafrica)

What Do Nile Crocodiles Eat?

Nile crocodiles are carnivores that will take the opportunity to kill, steal or scavenge almost anything they can get their jaws around.

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