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Cuban Crocodile Fact File

Crocodylus rhombifer

Credit: Zanbog, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

181kg

(400lbs)

Length

3.5m

(11.5ft)

Lifespan

Wild 50 years

Captive 50 years

Diet

Carnivore

Fish, Turtles, Birds

Conservation Status

IUCN

Critically Endangered

The Cuban crocodile is among the world's most endangered species of crocodilians being found in just two swamps in Cuba.

These animals are carnivores feeding on fish, turtles, mammals and birds. They are able to grab birds out of trees by leaping from the water propelled by their strong tail at the end of the body.

Females will deposit their eggs in to a mound of vegetation and mud. The temperature inside the nest determines the gender at hatching.

Their population includes around 4,000 individuals which continue to be threatened by illegal hunting and hybridization with the American crocodile.

Appearance

What does the Cuban crocodile look like?

Across their body the Cuban crocodile has yellow and black patterning. They are protected by hard scales and plates covering the body. On the belly they are pale in color with no major patterns.

When underwater the eye of the Cuban crocodile is covered by a nictitating membrane which acts like a third eyelid.

The eyes and nostrils of these animals are set high on the head. This allows them to see and breathe at the surface while the rest of their body remains hidden.

Their rear feet are webbed to help them swim easier.

At the end of the body is a long, strong tail which helps to push them through the water. This tail is patterned with dark colored blotches and bands.

Behind their eyes the Cuban crocodile has pronounced bony plates known as "Squamosals."

The Cuban crocodile is medium sized among the crocodiles. They measure an average 3.5m (11.5ft) long with a weight of up to 181kg (400lbs). Males are significantly larger than females which generally max out around 68kg (150lbs).

In the past rare records of 5m (15ft) long individuals were recorded.

Diet

What does the Cuban crocodile eat?


Cuban crocodiles are carnivores. Their diet includes fish, turtles and small mammals.

At the rear of the mouth they have blunt, broad teeth which are used to crush the shells of turtles they prey on.

They are able to launch out of the water and snatch animals from overhanging branches.

Cuban Crocodile

Credit: Brian Gratwicke from DC, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the Cuban crocodile?

As their name suggests the Cuban crocodile is only found in Cuba. Previously they were found in other parts of the Greater Antilles such as the Caymans and Bahamas.

They are now restricted to just the Zapata and Lanier swamps.

Their range may overlap with the American crocodile.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Cuban crocodile live in?

These animals will make their home in freshwater marshes and inundated shrubland. They primarily live in freshwater environments.

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Reproduction

How does the Cuban crocodile produce its young?

Nesting takes place during the rainy season from May to June.

In to their nest they will deposit between 30 and 40 eggs. Larger females will produce larger clutches. Over the incubation periods large numbers of these eggs are lost to predation by a range of predators.

The female will build a mound nest out of vegetation and soil. She will remain near the nest to protect it against predators. After it hatches she will uncover the eggs..

Hatchlings will break themselves out of their egg using a special "egg tooth" at the tip of the nose. Sometime they need additional help and she will use her mouth to crack the egg. They hatch after 58-70 days.

The gender of the hatchlings is determined by the internal nest temperature. Males occur only from 30-32 degrees with temperatures either side of this producing females.

They can reproduce with the American crocodile to produce a hybrid. In captivity hybrids with the Siamese crocodile have also been produced.

Behavior

What does the Cuban crocodile do with its day?

Cuban crocodiles will sit in the sun during the morning to warm up. If they become too warm they open their mouth and moisture evaporates to help cool the body.

At night they return to the water where it is typically warmer.

Cuban Crocodile

Credit: NasserHalaweh, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Cuban crocodile?

Eggs will be taken by mammals, reptiles and birds. Adults may also cannibalize juvenile crocodiles.

At present the Cuban crocodile population is believed to include 4,000 individuals across the two swamps.

Their population has been reduced through two main threats, hunting and hybridization with the American crocodile. Hunting takes place for food and they may be served in restaurants.

Quick facts

These animals may also be known as the Pearly crocodile.

Their species name, rhombifer comes from the rhombus shape of their scales.

Cuban Crocodile

Credit: gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Targarona, R.R., Soberón, R.R., Cotayo, L., Tabet, M.A. and Thorbjarnarson, J. (IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group). 2008. Crocodylus rhombifer (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T5670A112902585. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T5670A11516438.en. Downloaded on 22 September 2021.

Louisville Zoo. 2021. Crocodile, Cuban. [online] Available at: <https://louisvillezoo.org/animalsandplants/crocodile-cuban/> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

Crocodilian.com. 2021. Crocodilian Species – Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer). [online] Available at: <http://crocodilian.com/cnhc/csp_crho.htm> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

Pettit, K. 2001. "Crocodylus rhombifer" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 21, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Crocodylus_rhombifer/

World, C., 2021. Cuban Crocodile – Crocodiles Of The World. [online] Crocodiles Of The World. Available at: <https://www.crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk/animals/cuban-crocodile/> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

Paignton Zoo. 2021. Visit Cuban Crocodile – A Zoo With Cuban Crocodile • Paignton Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/animals-az/cuban-crocodile/> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Cuban crocodile. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/cuban-crocodile> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

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