The mugger crocodile is a species of crocodilian found on the Indian subcontinent.
These crocodiles tend to resemble an alligator more so than their crocodile relatives. This is a result of the rounded snout and flattened head. Their teeth sit in a straight line allowing them to be identified as a crocodile rather than an alligator.
They are carnivores. Juveniles seek out fish and crustaceans while larger individuals take down large mammals up to the size of a buffalo.
Mugger crocodiles will dig a burrow in to which they can retreat during the day when temperatures are at their highest.
These crocodiles are threatened as a result of habitat loss and hunting for food or their skins.
Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.
Mugger crocodiles share a range of traits which are closer to those of alligators than other crocodiles. These include a broad snout and a flattened head. They can be distinguished as a crocodile rather than an alligator as their teeth are straight.
The snout of the mugger crocodile is the widest of any crocodilian species.
Their flattened tail is strong and works as an adaptation to help them swim better. The tail can make up as much as 1.8m (5.9ft) of their length.
These crocodilians are colored brown across their body which is covered by thick scales for protection.
The toes are webbed but are rarely use to assist with swimming.
An average mugger crocodiles will reach a length of 2-5m (6.5-16ft) long with a weight of 700kg (1541lbs).
Mugger crocodiles are carnivores. Their diet changes with age. Juveniles will feed on fish, frogs and crustaceans. Adults are able to take down reptiles and large mammals such as buffalo or deer.
These animals are considered sit and wait predators. They will wait at the surface for an animal to come close attempting to feed and then strike at it.
In a single meal they may eat as much as one quarter of their body weight.
Asia is the native home of the mugger crocodile. Here they can be found in the following countries – India; Iran; Nepal; Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The species is extinct in Bhutan and Myanmar. Their current status in Bangladesh is unclear with the species potentially having gone extinct here already.
Parts of their range overlap with that of the gharial and in some areas they compete for basking or nesting sites.
These crocodiles are found in freshwater habitats. These include rivers, lakes and streams. They will also exploit man-made habitats such as reservoirs, village ponds and man-made tanks. Rare reports of the species from saltwater lagoons exist.
Most of the habitats they make use of feature rather shallow and slow-moving water.
In parts of their range they live in close proximity to humans.
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Egg laying takes place during the dry season. Nests are built either at the opening of or inside the females burrow.
Males will establish a territory and raise their snouts above the ground while thrashing their tail to establish their dominance during the breeding season.
In to their nest the female will deposit 25-30 eggs. These hatch after just 55-75 days of incubation.
Females will remain within the nest and ensure it is safe. She will also adjust the temperature of the nest to ensure it is suitable.
The gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which they incubate. Lower temperatures produce females while higher temperatures will produce males. There is an in-between zone where both males and females will be produced.
Juveniles tend to be light tan or pale olive with black cross-bands on the tail and body. This is lost as they grow and darken in color.
Sexually maturity is tied to length. It is achieved between 1.8 and 2m (5.9 and 6.6ft) long. Females tend to reach this between 8 and 10 years old with males reaching it at 12-15 years old.
In captivity they have been observed to produce two clutches in the same season but this is yet to be recorded in the wild.
Mugger crocodiles will dig a burrow which provides a respite from the high temperatures during the day in their environment. Exposure to these temperatures would be fatal for the mugger crocodile making these burrows essential to their survival.
These reptiles will call to one another especially during the breeding season.
This species is dependent on basking to control its internal temperature.
These crocodiles will move easily over the land when looking for a new home and will even chase prey for short distances.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the mugger crocodile tend to only target eggs and hatchings. These may be threatened by birds such as crows and wild dogs. Tigers also present a threat.
The current population of the mugger crocodile is believed to be stable with an adult population of between 5,700 and 8,700 individuals. This represents an increase from the estimated 2-3,000 individuals making up the population in 1989.
Mugger crocodiles are threatened by habitat loss as a result of agricultural and industrial development. They also become entangled in fishing equipment and egg predation. This species faces hunting for their skin and meat along with use in medicines.
A large population of these crocodiles is held in captive collections providing an insurance against their extinction and acting as the source for release to the wild.
These crocodiles are considered dangerous to humans in their range and have been confirmed to have killed a human previously.
These crocodiles are named from a Hindu word which means 'water monster.'
Mugger crocodiles are also known as the marsh crocodile.
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Narayanan Sivasailam, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Wildlifeofpakistan.com. 2021. Crocodilians of Pakistan: Mugger or Marsh Crocodile. [online] Available at: <http://www.wildlifeofpakistan.com/ReptilesofPakistan/mugger.htm> [Accessed 5 September 2021].