Sep 19, 2009

Alligators and Crocodiles

by John and Deborah Behler

In the middle of reading The Long African Day, a passage about Nile crocodiles caught my interest. I know little about them, so I looked through my shelf and found another book specifically about these aquatic reptiles. Alligators and Crocodiles is an overview of all the crocodilian species: two kinds of alligators, six species of caiman, thirteen different crocodiles and the two gharials (an animal I never heard of before). The book is full of stunning photos- some of the large gators and crocs look very sinister and remind me that crocodiles are an ancient species that existed alongside dinosaurs. Others, especially the young caimans, strike me with the beauty of their patterned scales, and their fierce toothy grins. Although the book clearly explained the difference between alligators and crocodiles I know I still couldn't distinguish the two even if they were floating side by side!

I learned lots of interesting facts- did you know that the temperature in a crocodilian's nest determines what sex the hatchlings are? and they are dependent on heat to aid digestion- if their body temperature falls too low, the digestive enzymes don't function. I didn't know that while crocs can snap their jaws shut with great force, the muscles that open the jaws are relatively weak, and can easily be held closed with a rope or thick rubber band! or that some species dig burrows into mud banks, or that mother crocs are quite maternal, assisting their hatchlings to dig out of the nest, guarding them and sometimes carrying them about in her jaws. While I still find crocodiles and their relatives fearsome and unattractive beasts, I have to admit they are fascinating animals, successful predators well-adapted to their aquatic environment. There's a lot more interesting information on crocodiles and alligators in this book, although sometimes I felt that it was crowded out by all the stats on conservation (a trait it shares with the Pandas book, and probably the other one I have of the WorldLife Library, Killer Whales).

Rating: 3/5                    72 pages, 1998


Jenny said...

Oo, interesting. One year we had a massive gator in the lake near the university I attended, and you would occasionally see it get a duck. By the time Wildlife & Fisheries finally got around to removing it, there were hardly any ducks left. (But they are back now!)

bermudaonion said...

I think I would enjoy this book because we see alligators when we go to Hilton Head. I had no idea the temperature of the nest determined the baby's sex.

Lezlie said...

I have been fascinated by the Nile crocodile every since I saw a special on the wildebeest migrations in Africa. Such an interesting animal!


Life With Dogs said...

Great scoop - I never have time to find books and this is a fun subject...

Jules said...

Any lizard/snake/ like creatures, including crocodiles etc freak me out. Glad most stay far, far, far away from where I am!

Just wanted to stop by and let you know I have an award for you at my blog. Hope the week is a good one.

Wanda said...

Fascinating creatures those crocs as are most reptiles. I find all the toothy animals appeal more to boys than girls.

Jeane said...

Jenny- the poor ducks! I've never seen one, except in zoos- it would be scary to have a gator near campus!

Bermudaonion- It's very curious. Colder temperatures make the hatchlings female, warmer ones male. Nests that get too cold only hatch males, and vice versa. The ideal nest, (says the book) is an even mix- males hatch from the top layer of eggs, and females from the bottom. Fasctinating!

Lezlie- I've watched many of those migration scenes of the wildebeest and zebras leaping across the river only to be snatched unawares by the crocs. Makes my skin shiver!

Life with Dogs- well may you like it.

Jules- There are none near my area, either- and I'm glad! Thank you for the award- I'll have to think hard who to pass it on to.

Wanda- I think you're right. When we see those migration clips on tv my husband is always wowed by the crocs while I'm rooting for the poor zebras.