Just how large is the largest crocodile? Crocodiles as we know them today are one of the closest relatives of the dinosaurs (along with birds). No wonder then that they can get pretty big.
Fossils show that the “forefathers” of today’s crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caymans and gavials) grew up to 15m/50 feet long, more than twice as long as any of the biggest crocs living today!
Crocodile or Alligator?
For clarification, the alligator’s snout is rounded, where crocodiles have a long pointed snout.
In America, for an alligator and crocodile of the same length, the latter is two-thirds the weight of the former, and can move much more quickly.
Today there are 12 species of crocodiles, living in tropical countries throughout the world:
- Cuban Crocodile (endangered) – only found in Cuba’s Zatapa Swamp. A relatively small species with an average length of 2.5m/8 feet.
- Freshwater Crocodile, also known as Johnston’s Crocodile or Freshies – found in northern Australia and grows up to 2.5 or 3m/8-10feet (which takes 30 years).
- Philippine Crocodile – as the name indicates they live in the Philippines. They grow to about 3m/10 feet.
- The Siamese Crocodile (critically endangered) of Borneo, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam grows to 3m/10 feet.
- The Morelet’s Crocodile is distributed in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. They usually get up to 3m/10 feet long.
- The New Guinea Crocodile is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is a maximum of 3.5m/11.5 feet in length.
- Slender-Snouted Crocodiles are found in central and western Africa. Maximum length reported is about 4.3m/14 feet.
- The Mugger Crocodile lives on the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries – they sometimes exceed 4.5m/15 feet.
- The American Crocodile (endangered) mentioned above typically reaches a length of about 5m/16 feet.
- The Orinoco Crocodile (endangered) lives in the Orinoco River in South America. They used to grow 7 metres/23 feet long, but nowadays they only grow to around 5 metres/16 feet long – still a big fellow!
- The Nile Crocodile (endangered) averages 5m/16 feet but if circumstances are ideal, does grow up to 6m/19 feet long.
- The giant Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile lives in many places from south-east Asia and northern Australia, and it's the largest crocodile of the lot. They grow to 7m/23 feet.
Look At Them Grow!
When born, the Nile Crocodile is less than 30cm long. Growth is about 27cm per year, but less after the 7th year.
Some species are sexually mature at 7 years, others only after 10 or even 12 years. Interestingly their sexual maturity is determined by their size, not their age.
The Nile crocodile can get more than 100 years old if all circumstances are favourable.
The Nile crocodile is found in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara desert, so you can go in search of the largest crocodile in most game reserves.
Rumour has it that the crocs in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania are super-sized and I have also seen some giants in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.