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Crocodile

species, crocodiles, water, african, alligator, bird and mouth

CROCODILE, a huge reptile of the genus Crocodilus and order Crocodilia, distinguished from the other genera of the family by having the enlarged fourth lower tooth fitted into an emargination, and not a pit, in the upper jaw, the dorsal head and trunk plates not united and the nasal bones not entering the nasal canal as a septum. The bones of the head have a peculiar corroded and pitted appearance, the skin is marked into transverse rows of hard quadrate areas and in addition protected dorsally by large keeled bony scutes, and the tail is provided with a partly double crest. Although fitted for ter restrial locomotion, the feet are as well adapted for aquatic life by being webbed. More re markable adaptations for life beneath the waters are valves on the snout for closing the nostrils and external ear openings, and especially the arrangement by which the glottis fits into the internal nares, enabling the crocodile to breathe while the mouth is open and to hold a struggling animal beneath the surface until it drowns. A crocodile's stomach is constructed much like a bird's gizzard and is a receptacle for stones and other hard substances by which the food is ground. About 10 living species are known, all of which are strictly aquatic animals; three are American, an equal number African and the re mainder distributed through the Indo-Malayan and North Australian regions.

The only species which enters the United States is C. americanus, which is of rare occur in southern Florida, where it has been known to exist since 1875, but more common in the West Indies, Central and South America. Little has been written of its habits. It may be readily distinguished from the very much more abundant alligator by the longer, more slender' snout with a median ridge, besides the generic characters mentioned above. The extreme length appears to be about 14 feet. Unlike the alligator it enters brackish and salt water. The African crocodile (C. vutgaris) is the longest and best known. It ranges throughout the con tinent and swarms in the waters of Madagascar and of the upper Nile, but has been extermi nated in lower Egypt. Like the alligator, the crocodile is essentially a scavenger, but attacks,

.drowns and devours various animals which enter the water in which it lives, not excepting full grown cattle, or even man, especially after nightfall. It is said that, like the tiger, the crocodile acquires a taste for and prefers human flesh. The Mugger, or crocodile of the Ganges, is C. palustris. It is the object of religious worship by the natives. Crocodiles construct dens in the river banks above the water level, which they enter by means of long burrows opening beneath the water; they are used as retreats in case of danger, and in which to devour their prey. Numerous eggs are de posited in a hole or nest in dry earth, the mother remaining near to guard them, a point in which as, indeed, in most of its habits the crocodile resembles our well-known alligator (q.v.). In one of its associates, however, it is unique. A species of leech (Limnatis nitotica) infests the great saurian's mouth, which is said to be habit ually entered by a plover-like bird for the pur pose of feeding upon the parasites. It is not clear to just what species of bird this habit is to be attributed, but most ornithologists con sider it to be Pluvianus cegyptius. The Egyp tian crocodile was anciently the object of elab orate worship, possibly, as was suggested by Eusebius, because it appeared in greatest num bers at the time of the flooding of the Nile; hence it was connected with the fertility of the soil, was cared for by the priests, and in many cases embalmed after death.

an African plover, credited since the days of Herodotus with entering the open mouths of basking crocodiles to feed on the bits of food clinging to the reptiles' teeth, or possibly to pick out parasites. Two noisy plovers common along African river-banks, and both called "zic-zac't from their cries, are said to indulge in this dangerous performance, but the name crocodile-bird be longs more properly to only one of them — the crested, spur-winged plover (Hoploptenus spi nosus) of the Nile Valley. There is good evi dence that this bird does actually enter the mouth of crocodiles, which welcome the bird's attentions. Consult Lydekker,