The marine crocodile, the largest terrestrial predator

The marine crocodile, the largest terrestrial predator
The marine crocodile, the largest terrestrial predator

We have always been accustomed to associating crocodiles and their like with fresh water: who does not know the Nile crocodile, the alligator, the caiman or the gharial of the Ganges? Few, on the other hand, are aware of a far more lethal predator hiding under the sea surface: the marine or estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus.

The latter is the largest terrestrial predator and the largest reptile in existence and its jaws are capable of closing in 20 hundredths of a second. Its bite is the most powerful recorded in nature, with a pressure of over 1000 kg / cm2, equal to that present at the bottom of the Mariana trench and its power is 15 times higher than that of a white shark or a tiger. This sea titan can reach 1200 kg in weight and an adult length of 6-7 meters, equal to that of a white shark.

It is a species that is well adapted to salty waters: its skin has finer and more regular scales than other crocodiles and, on the tongue, to effectively dispose of the excess salts ingested through water and food, it has 28-40 glands of the salt that open on the surface through pores.

Adults prey on buffaloes, wild boars, sharks and other mammals, but they do not neglect the human being. Crocodylus porosus it was present throughout the Austral-Asiatic region but, for some decades, its range has been considerably restricted to Papua New Guinea and the North of Australia: currently it has been declared extinct in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand; in the rest of Indochina, especially after the intensive hunting of the early 1900s, it is increasingly rare to meet him.

Adaptation to salt water leads the marine crocodile to compete with other large predators, including the great white shark: in 1939, in the north of Australia, the clash between a white shark and a marine crocodile was documented which ended in the landslide victory of the reptile; on another occasion, in 2017, tiger sharks and sea crocodiles were seen feeding on a whale carcass together. From this last event it was possible to deduce that Crocodylus porosus yes, it is a territorial species but, in the presence of large food sources, it can tolerate other competitors as well.

Clashes with tigers have been documented along rivers: on land the tiger prevails, managing to exploit its agility to kill the reptile; however, when the tiger approaches the pools of water to drink, the crocodile manages to overwhelm it by dragging it into the water and killing it.

There were also clashes with humans: in February 1945, during the Second World War, a Japanese convoy, to escape the English troops, took refuge in the marshy areas of the island of Ramree in Burma, without being aware of the presence. of a large colony of marine crocodiles. Of 1000 soldiers only about twenty survived, as most of the soldiers were devoured by these ravenous reptiles.

The sea crocodile was one of the protagonists of the Disney fairy tale of “Peter Pan”. The latter, in a fight with Captain James Hook, cuts off his hand and throws it to a crocodile who likes a lavish lunch. Hence the captain is called “Hook” for having replaced the missing hand with an iron hook, becoming one of the most famous pirates ever.

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