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  Sep 1, 2014.    

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Island Wildlife: Crocodiles

In the latest article in our series about native Cozumel wildlife, we look at crocodiles.

Hidden away in the island's lagoons and mangroves are many examples of the American crocodile, or Crocodylus acutus.

The same species is also found in Florida, other parts of the Caribbean, and even on the Pacific coast, from Mexico right down to Peru.

Its scientific name comes from the Greek krokodeilos, which probably meant "pebble worm", as a reference to its skin, and the Latin acutus, which refers to its "pointed" snout.

Cozumel crocs
Crocodile at Punta Sur Park.

In Cozumel, they are a shy creature that rarely leaves the brackish lagoons and mangroves in the far north and south the island.

Although globally a "vulnerable" species, in parts of Cozumel they thrive due to the protection of their habitat and lack of hunting.

Larger than many other crocodile species, adult males can grow to about 16 feet (5m) long, whereas females are usually a little over half that size.

They are recognizable by their olive brown skin, silvery eyes, and less armour on their backs than some other types of croc.

Feeding mainly at night, they eat fish, crabs, other marine species and sometimes birds too.

American crocodiles need relatively warm water, which is probably why they haven't spread as far north into the U.S. as alligators.

You can safely see this fascinating reptile in its natural environment at Cozumel's Punta Sur park on a guided Jeep tour.

American crocodiles
American crocodile zones.

Special thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for help researching this article.

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