|Cuban crocodile range|
The Cuban crocodile has numerous characteristics that sets it apart from other crocodilians, such as its brighter adult colors, rougher, more 'pebbled' scales, and long, strong legs. This is a small to mid-sized crocodilian. Typical adults were found to have measured 2.1–2.3 m (6.9–7.5 ft) in length and to have weighed 70–80 kg (150–180 lb). Large males can reach as much as 3.5 m (11 ft) in length and weigh 215 kg (474 lb) or more.
Distribution and habitat
Today, the Cuban crocodile can only be found in Cuba's Zapata Swamp and the Isle of Youth, and it is highly endangered. It formerly ranged elsewhere in the Caribbean. Fossils of this species have been found in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.
Biology and behavior
This species has been observed to display interesting behavior that other crocodilians do not. A colony of this species at Gatorland, Florida has exhibited what is strongly suspected to be pack-hunting behavior, which may explain the predation of prehistoric megafauna that coexisted with this species such as the giant sloth. The behavior has prompted much interest in the species, usually kept singly (especially so after such reports). This species is also the most terrestrial of crocodiles, and also possibly the most intelligent.
Hunting and diet
Small fish, arthropods, and crustaceans make up the diet of young Cuban crocodiles. Adults of the species feed mostly upon small mammals, fish, and turtles. They have blunt rear teeth, which aids in crushing the shells of their turtle prey. Cuban crocodiles also demonstrate the jumping feeding technique seen in other crocodilians such as the American alligator. By thrusting with their powerful tail, they can leap from the water and snatch small animals from overhanging branches. The Cuban crocodile, while not a particularly large species, is often regarded as the most aggressive New World crocodile and is behaviorally dominant over the larger American crocodile in areas in which the two species coexist. Data regarding attacks on humans is limited, but occurrences are likely rare given the species very small distribution area and separation from human populations. However captive specimens show aggression towards their keepers, a behavior displayed at Gatorland.
The Cuban crocodile is an endangered species, listed on CITES appendix 1. Its restricted habitiat and range make it very vulnerable. Humans have hunted this species to near extinction.
There is still much research to be done on the remaining wild populations. The species is represented in captivity in the United States, where breeding projects are taking place. There have been problems in the past with hybridisation, especially with the American crocodile, which limits the pure gene pool of this species.
- Targarona, R. R.; Soberón, R. R.; Cotayo, L.; Tabet, M. A.; Thorbjarnarson, J. (2008). "Crocodylus rhombifer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
- Morgan, Gary; Franz, Richard & Ronald Crombie (1993). "The Cuban Crocodile, Crocodylus rhombifer, from Late Quaternary Fossil Deposits on Grand Cayman". Caribbean Journal of Science 29 (3–4): 153–164.
- Franz, Richard; Morgan, G, Albury, N & Buckner, S (1995). "Fossil skeleton of a Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) from a blue hole on Abaco, Bahamas". Caribbean Journal of Science 31 (1–2): 149–152.
- Steadman, D. W.; et al. (2007-12-11). "Exceptionally well preserved late Quaternary plant and vertebrate fossils from a blue hole on Abaco, The Bahamas". PNAS 104 (50): 19897–19902. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709572104. PMC 2148394. PMID 18077421.
- National Zoo
- Alexander, Marc (2006-01-01). "Last of the Cuban crocodile?". Americas (English Edition) (Organization of American States). ISSN 0379-0940. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- University of Florida
- Weaver, J. P.; Rodriguez, D.; Venegas-Anaya, M.; Cedeño-Vázquez, J. R.; Forstner, M. R. J.; Densmore, L. D. III (2008). "Genetic characterization of captive Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer) and evidence of hybridization with the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)". Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology 309A (10): 649–660. doi:10.1002/jez.471.