Posts Tagged 'crocodile'

Crocodiles of the World

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Morelet’s Crocodile

Recently I took a trip up to this unusual establishment in Oxfordshire on something of a whim. I’d been planning to go for quite a while but the opportunity came up and I wanted to make the most of it so headed over (so apologies to various people who I’d been muttering to about arranging a trip up there). I did not actually know what to expect really, but did know that it was a small operation and that they had lots of the smaller, and very much lesser seen, croc species. I’ll enjoy any good zoo, but there are generally only so many Celebes macaques or Asian short-clawed otters you can see, and filling in on a raft of the crocs not yet present in the crocodilian panoply made it a likely hit.

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Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman

It is indeed a pretty small outfit, but what there is available, is very well presented (the signs are numerous and excellent) the enclosures are great and spacious, and the animals in great condition and clearly breeding well and behaving naturally. It is not going to be a full day for anyone and even a reptile obsessive is unlikely to be able to spend more than a few hours there, but it is reasonably priced and thanks to numerous and well placed viewing areas, it’s almost impossible not to see every animal pretty well. Best of all, there are numerous small talks and feeding sessions scheduled for every day, so no matter when you go, there’s going to be some extra information and a chance to grill the knowledgeable and engaging staff.

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Yacare Caiman

There are a pair of macaws and several large tortoises and a few terrapins knocking around, in addition to some nice lizards (including the biggest varanids that are not Komodo’s I’ve ever seen) and a monstrous python, but obviously we are really here for the crocs. A total of 14 species are on show and most of them are not commonly kept in zoos and are hard to see at the best of times. Sure there’s a couple of American alligators, and Nile crocs and some not uncommon ones in the spectacled and black caiman, and West African dwarf croc and the endangered-but-often-in-zoos Chinese alligator. There were also more unusual ones like both Siam and Cuban crocs and a group of three salties. Then we get into the real rarities – Cuvier’s dwarf caiman, Morelets’ crocodile, blunt-snouted caiman, Scheneider’s dwarf caiman and finally the stunning Yacare caiman.

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Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman (or smooth fronted caiman)

Almost all of these were in at least pairs, and generally there were more than that. In the case of the Niles, they were in a huge pool since there were more than 30 of them (though all were only a meter or so long). Obviously most of these are small species even when they max out, but the biggest Siam and big alligator were at the 3 m mark and every big the major carnivore you expect at that scale and were very impressive. Despite the usual level of activity in crocs (especially with winter coming, even in a heated environment) plenty were moving around at least a little, and the feeding times stimulated plenty of activity, and I was able to see crocs high-walking, belly crawling, juveniles calling to their parents, some low-level aggression between individuals, and best of all, some of the Niles rocketing up out of the water to take food.

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Broad Snouted Camian

I do think people going expecting a full on zoo, or anything like a normal reptile house might be, if not disappointed, then at least surprised. This really is 90% croc, but that’s in no way a criticism, and the excellent set ups and the animals were a real joy. As someone who does like to target species I’ve not seen before, it was a real revelation, a good half dozen that were new to me, and plenty more I’d seen only occasionally (I’d not seen a Cuban croc before this year, only seen a Siam once before). Moreover with the good signs and all the animals in one place, it was really easy to compare them to one another and get a real feel for some of the differences and how they line up to one another. If reptiles are in any way your thing, this really is something that should be on a to-do list and it’s a great addition to the UK collections.

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Black Caiman

A return to the crocodilian panoply

As I was going to be away for a few days, I put up this post of a whole series of photos of various crocs and left the readers to guess at their identities. Here I shall attempt to reveal all (assuming I get it right):


We start off with a fairly obvious one, the American alligator: Alligator mississippiensis


The another alligator, this time the Chinese dwarf: Alligator sinensis

Now the very little seen dwarf caiman: Paleosuchus palpebrosus

The next two (above and below) are of the false gahrial: Tomistoma schlegelii

This gaping animal is the first piccie of a saltwater croc: Crocodylus porosus

And then we get a Nile croc: Crocodylus niloticus

These two (above and below) are the New Guinea crocodile: Crocodylus novaeguineae

Followed by another couple of C. porosus

Then we have a couple of photos (above and below) of the Siamese crocdile: Crocodylus siamensis

And here are two spectacled caiman: Caiman crocodilus

This one is a West African dward croc: Osteolaemus tetraspis

Then another spectacled caiman, though this is rather a young one.

Then another Siam croc.

And we finish with another Chinese alligator.

All in all, a more than healthy collection with 10 different species represented and covering more of the lineages. Sadly I’ve yet to see a true gharial and I do have hardcopy photos of mugger crocs and black caiman but couldn’t dig them out in time to scan them for this (though that’s a job for the future clearly). Obviously having a series of photos like this (despite all the photography issues and different degrees of zoom and angles) does make it much easier to compare them and the shapes of the snout and position and shape of major scales and scutes does make it easier to help separate them out and identify the different species.

Taxidermic magnificence

Although the vast majority of my work involves looking at bones, I’m actually quite partial to a good piece of taxidermy. And this is nothing like a good piece, it’s actually magnificent. I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it and it is both beautiful and superbly executed. Two huge animals, rendered as if shooting through the water, held high off the ground (and with no massive support structures, there must be a wonderfully concealed steel support running through that branch) in a pose that’s both dramatic and realistic. This is just great, and the fact that you an walk all the way around i only makes it better.

The Carnegie had some truly superb taxidermy on show, and like this piece, not just in the sense of technical accomplishment, but the layouts and dioramas. One other memorable effort was of two adjoining displays of mountain sheep and goats. Mounted outside and between the two was a cougar, climbing around the rocks as if moving from one diorama to the next, and helping break down the barriers by being outside the glass and on the same side as the visitors – clever, inventive, worked. Brilliant.

I call the big one ‘Bitey’

You wait years for a Musings croc post and then get get two withing a couple of months. Who’d have guessed eh? Well, none too exciting given the lack of scale bars and all since it makes it harder to appreciate just how big these are, but this is a dorsal and some osteoderms from the colossal croc Deinosuchus. The north African Sarcosuchus seems to get all the press, but this animal was of similar size and has a more typical (and thus likely more powerful) skull than the rather gharial-like Sarco. As noted, it’s hard to appreciate here, but the biggest osteoderm was about the size of my hand. This was a really serious animal.

Oh, a croc

Whatever your definition of an archosaur, crocs fall within it and yet they’re almost never covered on here. The simple reason is while I do find them interesting, I know little about them (compared to dinosaurs and pterosaurs at least) and those who know the history of the Musings will be aware that the name was bestowed upon me. Even so, I do feel bad about rarely writing on crocs, and this is a token effort, but hey, the picture is nice.
It’s a specimen of the Eocene Dyrosaurus and it’s housed in the marvelous dislays in Oxford. While far from complete as a specimen, the skull is in magnificent condition and the prep job is superb.


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