Crocodiles are nature’s best apex predator. Mostly known for the infamous saltwater crocodile (the largest reptilian in the world), crocodiles are feared by organisms on both land and water.
Problem is, people don’t actually know enough about crocodiles.
What most people don’t know is that there’s more than just one type of crocodile.
There are 24 recognized species of crocodiles separated into three categories – Crocodylidae (true crocodiles), Alligatoridae (alligators and caimans), and Gavialidae (the tomistoma and gharial).
So, if you’re interested in learning more about the different types (see also: The Most Interesting Types Of Centipedes)of crocodile species, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are 9 fascinating types of crocodiles!
Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus Porosus)
The saltwater crocodile is the most infamous type of crocodile. These magnificent creatures are the largest reptile in the world, with males growing over 6 meters and weighing just under 3,000 pounds.
This species is found in the saltwater habitats of Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Eastern India.
Salties are the ultimate apex predator, catching its prey with ambush techniques and killing animals (see also: Animals That Kill Snakes)with the sheer power of their jaws.
With a bite force of 3,100 psi, saltwater crocodiles have the strongest jaws in the world.
They are capable of killing a range of mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians, and even humans.
Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus Niloticus)
Recognized as the second-largest crocodile in the world, the Nile crocodile is native to 26 countries in Africa.
These beasts are found in freshwater habitats and, unlike saltwater crocodiles, live alongside other crocodiles of the same and different species.
It’s common for them to share basking spots as well as hunt together, known as a feeding frenzy.
Unfortunately, the Nile crocodile is responsible for the death of up to 200 people a year. Despite living in social situations, they are a particularly territorial and aggressive species.
They will even fight and kill each other if their social hierarchy order is infringed – as large males are at the top of the hierarchy.
American Crocodile (Crocodylus Acutus)
The American crocodile is a vulnerable crocodile species found across the Americas, and is known as the third-largest crocodile species.
These crocodiles are found in mostly coastal habitats as well as river systems, mangrove swamps, small islands, and brackish lakes.
Males are known to grow up to 5-6 meters, but other than their habitat, they are fairly indistinguishable from saltwater crocodiles.
American crocodiles have the ability to harm humans, but they rarely show aggression if their territory isn’t threatened.
Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus Tetraspis)
On the opposite side of the scale, the dwarf crocodile is recognized as the smallest crocodile species in the world.
These adorable crocodiles rarely ever exceed 1.5 meters, and are surprisingly timid nocturnal reptiles that typically avoid human settlements.
They are distributed across the tropical areas of Central Africa and Sub-Saharan West Africa.
Interestingly, dwarf crocodiles are one of the most terrestrial crocodile species. While they spend their days hiding in pools and caves, they also reside in burrows and will hunt both in and out of water.
Those who reside in caves are known to have a prominent orange coloring compared to the gray of the typically dwarf crocodile.
Black Caiman (Melanosuchus Niger)
The black caiman is a large crocodilian species belonging to the alligator and caiman family, Alligatoridae.
These reptiles are found in lakes and slow-moving rivers in the Amazon basin and some freshwater habitats across South America.
They grow to roughly the same size as the American crocodile.
As their name suggests, black caimans are notoriously darker than most crocodiles.
They use their dark coloration as camouflage to hunt their prey, which is typically through ambush techniques.
Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus Palustris)
Also known as the marsh crocodile, mugger crocodiles are medium-sized crocodilians native to freshwater areas of southern Iran and the Indian subcontinent.
These are powerful crocodiles that grow up to 5 meters long, and have a habit of digging burrows to escape roaring temperatures.
Mugger crocodiles are legally protected against poaching in Iran, Sri Lanka, and India, but they are still threatened by human activity, such as getting tangled in fishing nets and car accidents from basking on roadsides.
Gharial (Gavialis Gangeticus)
Also known as fish-eating crocodiles, gharials are certainly the most unique-looking type of crocodile.
Gharials are characterized by their long, thin snouts and interlocking teeth, which is why they are ideal for eating fish.
Adult males have a distinctive bulbous mound at the end of the snout known as a ghara, hence the name.
Gharials live in freshwater habitats, specifically river systems, mostly in the three tributaries of the Ganga River in India.
As a result of habitat loss and depleting fish resources, gharials are critically endangered, with roughly 650 wild adults left outside of captivity.
Australian Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus Johnstoni)
Freshwater crocodiles, or freshies, are a crocodile species found in the (you guessed it) freshwater habitats across northern Australia.
They are smaller than their saltwater counterparts and significantly less aggressive, and while they are known to snap or bite, this is out of self-defense rather than to attack.
Males typically grow up to 3 meters.
Interestingly, the population of freshies has dropped over the last few years, and not because of human interaction.
The increase of cane toad populations has led to the decrease of freshwater crocodiles, as the invasive toads are poisonous to the crocodiles.
Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus Rhombifer)
Endemic to Cuba, the Cuban crocodile is a small crocodile species rarely exceeding 3.5 meters in length.
This species is arguably the most terrestrial crocodile species (as proven by their strong legs), but are otherwise found in freshwater habitats.
Cuban crocodiles are critically endangered due to the threat of hunting by humans.
This species is examined regularly by biologists for their unique pack-hunting behavior.
Their terrestrial behavior and strong legs means they are capable of leaping from the water or ground to reach animals on low-hanging branches.
So, there you have it! With 24 species of crocodilians, it’s hard to narrow the most fascinating ones down to just 9, but they are certainly the most mesmerizing apex predator on the planet.