The Morelet's crocodile is found through Central America in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Here they live near water in which they complete much of their hunting for fish, reptiles and mammals.
Morelet's crocodiles are named for the French naturalist P.M.A. Morelet who first recorded them in 1850.
Most of their activity occurs at night. During the dry season they may undertake a period of aestivation.
Populations were significantly reduced through hunting in the last century. This has since been banned and their numbers have begun to increase. These animals were sought after for hunting due to the lack of bony plates in their skin.
Learn more about these reptiles by reading on below.
The Morelet's crocodile has a rather blunt snout. This snout features the nostrils at the end in the center. The eyes and ears all sit at a similar level on the head meaning the rest of their body can be mostly submerged while they can still hear, see and smell.
Their skin lacks the bony plates known as osteoderms which means their skin is highly sought after for the skin trade.
When swimming the eye is covered by a special covering known as the nictitating membrane. This is a clear covering which closes when they are underwater.
At the end of the body is a long, strong, muscular tail which helps to push them through the water. Their feet are webbed to help with swimming as well.
The eye features a silvery-brown iris with a black pupil.
Across their body they are covered by dark grayish-brown scales. Adults have dark bands and spots which sit before their tail.
Inside their mouth is between 66 and 88 teeth.
An average Morelet's crocodile will measure between 2.2 and 4.7m(7.2 and 15.4ft) long with an average weight of 51kg (112.3lbs). They are considered a medium species of crocodilian.
They are often confused with the American crocodile which has similar appearance.
Morelet's crocodiles are carnivores. Their diet includes invertebrates and animals such as birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. When food is in short supply they may become cannibalistic and eat juveniles. They may also scavenge for carrion.
North and Central America is the native home of the morelet's crocodile. Here they are found in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico.
Their range has expanded to parts of Mexico where they were not previously found through escapes from captive breeding.
Morelet's crocodiles are semi-aquatic and live near water. They make their home in freshwater areas such as marshes, swamps, ponds, rivers and lagoons. Occasionally they occur in saltwater or brackish water with some having been found in coastal areas.
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Eggs are laid at the end of the dry season. This occurs between mid-May and early July.
Their nest is a mound of decomposing vegetation and soil.
In to the nest the female will deposit between 20 and 50 eggs. These hatch after a 75 to 85 day incubation period. Multiple females may place their eggs in the same nest.
While the eggs are incubating the female is close by to defend them against threats. Males may also help defend their nests.
Once the eggs hatch the females will return to the nest and uncover the egg chamber. She then carries each hatchling to the water in her jaws. She may assist the hatchlings from their eggs by rolling them between her tongue and mouth.
The juveniles are colored yellow with black bands.
Depending on the temperature of the incubation the eggs may be male or female.
Females mature between 7 and 8 years old in the wild. This may occur as early as 4 in the wild.
During the dry season Morelet's crocodiles may undertake a period of dormancy known as aestivation. This occurs in a burrow.
They can produce a wide range of vocalizations including coughs, hisses, roars and bellows. They can also make a loud popping sound by clapping the jaw together. They can communicate through vibrations which are virtually unable to be heard by humans.
Most of their activity takes place during the night. During the day they will bask in the sun to warm their body.
Predators and Threats
Eggs and young are taken by large mammals, snakes and birds.
Humans reduced their population through hunting during the middle of the last century. Hunting has since been banned in much of their range and though some illegal hunting continues it is much reduced.
An emerging threat is increasing amounts of pollution in their habitat.
Previously hunters would play the distress call of the juveniles to lure females out in to the open where they could be caught easier.
They are now offered protection in all three of their range countries. Some trade still occurs but many of these come from registered breeding farms.
They are also known as the Belize crocodile, Central American crocodile or Mexican crocodile.
These crocodilians are named for the French naturalist P.M.A. Morelet who first recorded the species for science in Mexico during 1850.
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Bernard DUPONT, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Liberaler Humanist, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Crocodiles Of The World. 2021. Morelet's Crocodile – Crocodiles Of The World. [online] Available at: <https://www.crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk/animals/morelets-crocodile/> [Accessed 14 June 2021].
Platt, S.G., Sigler, L. and Rainwater, T.R. (2010). Morelet’s Crocodile Crocodylus moreletii. Pp. 79-83 in Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Third Edition, ed. by S.C. Manolis and C. Stevenson. Crocodile Specialist Group: Darwin
The Dallas World Aquarium | #DWAZOO. 2021. Morelet’s crocodile | The Dallas World Aquarium. [online] Available at: <https://dwazoo.com/animal/morelets-crocodile/> [Accessed 15 June 2021].
Britton, A., 2021. Crocodilian Species – Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii). [online] Crocodilian.com. Available at: <https://crocodilian.com/cnhc/csp_cmor.htm> [Accessed 15 June 2021].
Hurley, B. 2005. "Crocodylus moreletii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 14, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Crocodylus_moreletii/