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Roland Ortega's Nile Crocodile Report
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Roland Ortega's Research Paper: Nile Crocodile
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INTRODUCTION
    
Deep within African waterways, lives a creature with a reputation of killing and striking fear in other animals. Aging back before the dinosuars, the Nile Crocodile is a killer like no other. Lightning reflexes make it an agile predator and top of the African food chain. Therefore, regarding the paper, the main points that will be presented include the topics of its characteristics, physical behavior, its daily diet, breeding, habitat, and research being currently done.  As we go deeper into the past of this mysterious beast, we can learn what makes the Nile Crocodile overpower its natural surroundings.


FINDINGS

Crocodylus niloticus, or as we know it as the Nile Crocodile, is the scientific name for this type of crcodile. The word "Crocodylus" is derived from the Greek word Krokodeilos that means "pebble born". The word refers to the appearance of the crocodile. "Niloticus" however means of the Nile River (Britton 2009, #1). As for the classification of the Nile Crocodile, it falls under the Kingdom of "Animalia", Phylum of "Chordata", and  "Reptilia" for its Class. Its Order would be "Crocodylia", Family of "Crocodylidae", and Genus Species of "Crocodylus"( Crocodile) "niloticus" or "belonging to the Nile." During prehistoric periods, a creature roamed the lands that was similar to crocodiles in a way. "Phytosaurs" also referred to as "plant lizards" shared many characteristics of the reptile that we see today (Strauss 2012, #1). 

To find this mighty predator, you would have to journey to the Nile River, in the northern most part of wild Africa.  As for their habitat, it can vary to different options. These options include lakes, marshes, freshwater swamps, and brackish waters (Britton 2009, #3).  To add a touch to their place, crocs usually dig deeps dens underneath the rivers bed. These dens could be used to store leftover foods that they plan to eat later, or just to serve as a place to take a break. Another purpose of these underwater dens are to help crocodiles who are under the influence of stress. Believe it or not, but a animal so huge and fearsome does suffer from stress. What they do is they retreat to the dark murky waters of the river and lay in the den. Doing so helps them recuperate from their problems. Factors that contribute to a crocodiles stress would be fights amongst other relatives or people constantly using the river (Shacks 2012, #1).

As for the physical look of this reptile, it was made for speed and aggression. Nile Crocodiles are known to be very large creatures. Nile Crocodiles have a maximum of 4 short legs built to run at high speeds. The reptiles feet are also webbed to be used as paddles to swim faster after prey (Ghosh 2012, #1).  As for the shape of crocodile, it does not really have a peculiar shape, but is shaped like most reptiles. Depending on the size of the crocodile, its weight can vary. For example, an adult male can weight anywhere around 500 lbs to over 2,000 lbs (Luis 2010, #2).  With such a large jaw, the crocodile can produce more than 3,000 lbs of pressure on an object. The jaw has anywhere from 64-68 teeth, which contributes to the enormous amount of pressure it creates (Britton 2009, #5).   Crocodiles, behavior wise, are just like any other animal you find in the wild, they will respect you until they are pushed to the limit of being offended. Crocodiles are aggressive reptiles and try to avoid any disturbance.

With such a large mass of muscle and bone, this predator has a very big appetite. Some prey that crocs prefer would be antelope, gazelles, water bucks, zebra, wildebeest, cape buffalo, and other various mammals (Luis 2010, #5).  In the water, crocodiles use there webbed feet to paddle themselves through the water's currents, but on land crocs are less-capable of doing anything. Sometimes they will attempt to chase prey across land, but fail to catch anything because there legs prevent them in doing so. Their legs are too short to hold the body weight, forcing the croc to give up and regain their stamina.

Crocodiles' life cycles can last very long in the wild. Nile crocodiles have been recorded to live about 70-100 years on their own. Living so long gives the opportunity to breed and expand their species population (Ghosh 2012, #10). Onto the subject of breeding, they make sure to nothing comes across their soon to be adult and feeding Nile Crocodiles. What they do first to keep the eggs from being seen from other predators is they dig about 50cm of sand and lay the eggs into the hole. A female croc can lay anywhere around 40- 60 eggs, and that can vary between different crocodile populations. After the long process of placing the eggs into the hole, the female covers it up with sand again and patrols it constantly for nearby threats. Once the hatch-lings are about ready to come out, the mother crocodile digs the hole up and sits their until they have all hatched. However, not all baby Nile crocodiles are so very lucky. Some hatch-lings on the way to seek safety in the water, are snatched up by land animals, such as, hyaenas, monitor lizards, and humans. It would seem that the mother would do something would stop it, but she can not. This peroid of time is usually when she must retreat to the water to cool off her body, or thermo-regulate (Britton 2009 , #8).  

Nile crocodiles would be considered the apex predator of Africa, but the only true threat that crocodiles would face would be a hippopatumas. Th hippopatumas is equipped with them huge large ivory teeth that can bite through pretty much anything (Luis 2011, #5). Frequently, crocs and hippos clash in ferocious fights usually ending up in death. Commonly, they try to keep their distances, but that is not always the case. So how, if if they clash, does it start in the beginning? Well, Nile crocodiles are always patrolling the river banks to seek out unaware prey. Sometimes that prey can include young hippos who are unattended by their parents. Therefore, crocodiles take advantage and attack hippos. In some cases, mother hippos will purposely place their baby next to a crocodile to act as a bait, so the mother hippo can rest and not worry about being attacked (Luis 2011, #6). But usually, the crocodile never seems to attack the calf. In other odd case, crocodiles and hippos seem to have been acting rational around each others presence. Crocodiles would be laying on the hippos back while its being hauled everywhere along the river. Some scientists came to the conclusion that maybe its sunbathing or just a free ride. Although Nile crocodiles and hippos clash from time to time because of territorial reasons, they still share a connection between them (Luis 2011, #6).
 
 
Nile Crocodiles are always ready for the unexpected. To prepare for that, thy have scaled armor all over them that prevents any serious damage to take place. The scaled armor serves as another purpose, that keeps the crocodile from  overheating and dying. The scales are made to keep any moisture trapped in their body from oozing out. If it did ooze out then the crocodiles body would have nothing to keep it alive out of the water. So with that method created, they are able to survive out of water during the hottest and driest seasons during the year (Ghosh 2012, #15).

Crocodiles in general share same ways of food gathering. When a crocodile is able to feed on its prey, it most likely it will not finish the whole animal. So what do they do with it? Crocodiles take what they have leftover and place it under rocks and branches, wedged. This has raised ideas that they store food under certain objects so that they can, at anytime, come back and continue with their meal (Britton 2009,
#7). To overpower prey, crocodiles use their large jaws to latch around the animals neck and pull them into the water. They use the water to give the crocodile an advantage to suffocate and drown the animal. Nile crocodiles  don't have any ability to create poisons that would probably benefit its domination. When constantly being transferred in and out of the water, crocodiles must posses a certain adaptation to breath both in and out of water. The crocodile has a three heart chamber that includes an elongated cardiac septum. A cardiac septum is a sort of wall  that divides the right and left sides of the heart. Depending on the amount of adrenaline will also depend on the blood flow in the crocodile. The more blood flow present will result with more time the crocodile can stay underwater (Luis 2010, #3). With less, however, the less time it can stay underwater. 
 

Every animal studied or discovered have all fallen under a category of endangered, threatened, keystone, foundation, indicator, or invasive. As for the Nile crocodile, it would fall under the category of keystone species. It would be considered a keystone species because of its role in recycling nutrients by consuming dead animals that whose  remains would be pollution to the river ecosystems (Raasakka 2012, #2). 

With so many questions, scientists have done several researches on the Nile Crocodile. Following the topic of crocodiles suffering from stress, scientists have performed researches on how it further helps them cope with their problems.  What scientists have done is taken small high-definition cameras and dropped them or inserted them onto the back of a crocodile and have produced videos of what they do. What they discovered is the papyrus (water plant found in the Nile River/ used as paper) helps cool the temperature of the water, giving the crocodile a place to relax and unwind. With the help of the papyrus, it limited the amount of sunlight being exposed to the water, which made it a dark, low-key environment (Shacks 2012,
#1).  A crocodile has adapted so well to conditions like this that it is able to increase the amount of hours it wants to stay underwater. Until it thinks that it is fully recovered, the croc will move to the surface and breathe, then continuing what it was doing (Shacks 2012, #4).

First off, I picked this animal because I have always thought that crocodiles were the coolest animal in the world. So when I finally had the opportunity to research on an animal, I thought of the Nile Crocodile. Some legends or stories that I was able to find regarding the Nile Crocodile was that Egyptians worshiped the Nile Crocodile as a god. It was also referred to the Egyptian gods Re, Geb, Seth, and Osiris. According to a scholar during that time period stated that the crocodiles were treated and pampered as pets. They would keep the crocs in indoor pools and cover them in riches and jewelry. I find interesting that humans kept one of the most fearsome predators in the world as a pet, when the chances it could attack them was very high. I would very much consider the Nile Crocodile as my favorite childhood animal. In conclusion, Nile Crocodiles can be a blood-killing predator, but can also serve as an important factor to the environment.
Bibliography:
1. Britton 2009: "Crocodylus Niloticus" http://crocodilian.com/cnhc/csp_cnil.htm 

2. Downs 2009: "Study Highlights vulnerability of Nile Crocodiles" http://caes.ukzn.ac.za/
Nilecrocodile.aspx
 

3. Dunn 2002: "The Nile Crocodile" http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/crocodiles.htm 

4. Ghosh 2012: "Nile Crocodile" http://www.animalspot.net/nile-crocodile.html 

5. Luis 2010: "Lords of the Waterway: Studying Nile Crocodiles" http://www.vertebratejournal.org/
292/lords-of-the-waterways-studying-nile-crocodiles/
 

6. Luis 2011: "Dangerous Neighbors: Hippopotami and Nile Crocodiles" http://www.vertebratejournal.org/
858/dangerous-neighbors-hippopotami-and-nile-crocodiles/
 

7. Shacks 2012: "Okavango Crocodile Research" http://www.okavango-croc.com/ 

8. Strauss 2012: "Prehistoric Crocodiles-The Ancient cousins of Dinosaurs" http://dinosaurs.about.com/
od/typesofdinosaurs/a/crocodilians.htm
 

9. Raasakka 2012: "Crocodiles of the Zambezi" http://www.earthwatch.org/europe/expeditions/exped_
research_focus/rf-zambezi0209.html
 
Appendix: