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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)

Cuban Crocodile
Crocodylus rhombifer (Cuvier, 1807)
Range:  Northwest Cuba (Zapata and Lanier Swamps)
Habitat: Freshwater Wetlands
Diet: Fish, Turtles, Mammals
Social Grouping: Solitary, Loose Groups
Reproduction: Breed in late spring, construct mound nests (sometimes nest in holes) containing 30-40 eggs, incubation period 58-70 days (sex is determined by the temperature of incubation - more males occur when the temperature is between 30-32 degrees Celsius, more females occur when the temperature is outside this range). Both sexes are sexually mature at 6-7 years of age
Lifespan: 18 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Critically Endangered, CITES Appendix I

  • Measuring 2-2.5 meters in length (occasionally up to 3.5 meters, possibly as much as 4)and weighing 130 kilograms (males are larger than females), with a broad head and high bony ridges behind each eye
  • Sprinkled black and yellow pattern on back, resulting in nickname of “pearly crocodile”
  • Very agile on land (in part due to the comparatively long legs and the reduced webbing between the toes) and capable of powerful leaps, allowing them to snatch arboreal mammals out of overhanging branches
  •  Sometimes hunt cooperatively, demonstrating a dominance hierarchy; they are believed to have once preyed upon now-extinct giant ground sloths that once inhabited Cuba
  • Have the smallest natural distribution of any crocodilian, though fossils indicate that the species was once also found in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands
  • The major threats to their survival are habitat loss and competition/hybridization with the American crocodiles (C. acutus)
  • The species is heavily commercially farmed for its skins, resulting in a substantial captive population (sometimes hybridized on crocodile farms)
  • Despite their modest size and the scarcity or reports of attacks in the wild, typically considered most aggressive crocodilian towards humans in captivity

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