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Biosphere, Fauna and Flora in Cuba Naturaleza
Cuba Naturaleza Biodiversity

Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer), a crocodile endemic to Cuba

Cocodrilo Cubano (Crocodylus rhombifer)Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)
Scientific name: Crocodylus rhombifer
Common name (english): Cuban Crocodile
Common name (spanish): Cocodrilo Cubano

The Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is a small species (2.4 meters average length) of crocodile found only in Cuba's Zapata Swamp and the Isle of Youth, and highly endangered, though it formerly ranged throughout the Caribbean.

The Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) has numerous interesting characteristics that set it apart from other crocodilians, such as its brighter adult colors, rougher, more 'pebbled' scales, and long, strong legs. This species is the most terrestrial of crocodiles, and also possibly the most intelligent. A colony of this species at Gatorland, Florida has also exhibited what is strongly suspected to be pack-hunting behavior, which has prompted much interest in the species, usually kept singly and especially so after such reports.

Adult Cuban crocodiles generally do not exceed 10.5 feet (3.5 meters) in length, with males being larger than females. Fifteen-foot (5 m) individuals have been found in the past, but are rare. The Cuban crocodile has a short, broad head with a bony ridge located behind the eyes. Large osteoderms from the dorsal shield extend onto the back of the neck. Scales on the legs are larger than usual and heavily keeled on the two rear legs. Coloration is darker on the top portion of the body, consisting of a pattern of black and yellow speckles. The belly of the Cuban crocodile is pale with no distinctive markings. The tail is marked with black blotches and/or bands.

Cuban crocodiles have a total of 66 to 68 large teeth, especially adapted for crushing turtle shells. They have feet with reduced webbing that aid the Cuban crocodile on land, enabling them to move with agility and power.

Cuban crocodiles are strong swimmers and are also adept at walking and leaping. This makes them equally at home in water or on land. Temperature control is important because they cannot generate heat metabolically. They soak up heat from the sun or warm water, generally in the morning, when they are cold and groggy, or after a meal, because the heat raises their metabolisms. There is a dominance hierarchy among crocodiles based on sex, size, and temperament. This species may live for about 50 to 75 years.

This species is endangered due to the loss of its habitat. It currently has the smallest wild habitat area of any crocodile and will only swim in fresh water habitats. Its restricted habitat and range make it very vulnerable. The Cuban crocodile’s main threat is humans, who have hunted the crocodile extensively and have largely encroached upon their habitats. However, it has been protected as an endangered species since 1996.

 
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© 2017 Nigel Hunt