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The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.




Crocodylus acutus
Crocodylus acutus
(American crocodile)
Reptiles-Crocodilians
Native Transplant
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Crocodylus acutus Cuvier, 1807

Common name: American crocodile

Synonyms and Other Names: cocodrilo amarillo

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Crocodylus acutus is a large crocodilian that reaches a total length of 2.3-3.7 m (7.5-12 ft), with record sizes of 4.6 m (15 ft) for the U.S. and 7 m (23 ft) for South America (Conant and Collins, 1998).  A long, tapering snout with prominently displayed teeth while the mouth is closed (especially the 4th tooth in the lower jaw) , distinguishes this species from Alligator mississippiensis, the American alligator (Behler and King, 1979; Conant and Collins, 1998; Powell et al., 1998). American crocodiles lack the prominent, bony ridge in front of and between the eyes that characterizes Caiman crocodilus, the common caiman (Conant and Collins, 1998; Powell et al., 1998).  For comparison see the species accounts titled "Alligator mississippiensis (Daudin, 1801)" and "Caiman crocodilus (Linnaeus, 1758)" on this website.  The overall coloration ranges from gray, tannish gray, to greenish gray with dusky markings; juveniles may have black crossbands or rows of spots (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Moler, 1992; Conant and Collins, 1998; Ernst et al., 1999).  The vocalization of C. acutus is a low rumble that is not a penetrating as the voice of A. mississippiensis (Conant and Collins, 1998).

 

The American crocodile has been illustrated by a variety of authors (Neill, 1971; Guggisberg, 1972; Carr, 1973; Smith and Smith, 1977; Behler and King, 1979; Alvarez del Toro, 1982; Smith and Brodie, 1982; Hirschhorn, 1986; Webb et al., 1987; Lang, 1989; Ross and Magnusson, 1989; Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Grenard, 1991; Moler, 1992; Lamar, 1997; Murphy, 1997; Campbell, 1998; Conant and Collins, 1998; Powell et al., 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Behler, 1999; Ernst et al., 1999; Kaiser et al., 2001).

Size: 2.3-3.7 m total length

Native Range: In North America, C. acutus lives at the northernmost extent of its range, found only along the extreme southern coastline of Florida, including the Keys, primarily confined to the counties of Dade and Monroe, with individuals wandering as far north as Palm Beach County on the east coast and Sarasota County on the west coast; these northern wanderings may encompass their historical range (Reese, 1915; Duellman and Schwartz, 1958; Carr, 1973; Stevenson, 1976; Moler, 1988, 1992; Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989a; Lazell, 1989; Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Conant and Collins; 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Ernst et al., 1999; King, 2000; Meshaka et al., 2000).  The rest of its range includes Atlantic and Pacific coastal regions of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America as far south as Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, and the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Martinique, and Margarita (Barbour and Ramsden, 1919; Smith and Smith, 1976, 1977, 1993; Alvarez del Toro, 1982; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Groombridge, 1987; King, 1989; Ross and Magnusson, 1989; Grenard, 1991; Flores-Villela, 1993; Powell et al., 1996, 1999; Campbell, 1998; Crombie, 1999; Ernst et al., 1999; Estrada and Ruibal, 1999; Kaiser et al., 2001).  The American crocodile seems to be extirpated from Trinidad (Murphy, 1997).

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Alaska auto-generated map
Alaska
Hawaii auto-generated map
Hawaii
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Crocodylus acutus are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Puerto Rico200420041Cibuco-Guajataca
South Carolina200820081Bulls Bay
Virginia197619761Albemarle

Table last updated 10/4/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology: In Florida, C. acutus prefers brackish waters and coastal mangrove swamps but may wander inland or out to sea (Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Moler, 1992). One population of American Crocodiles exists in the canal system of a Florida power plant (Gaby et al., 1985; Grenard, 1991). Adults are fairly tolerant of high salinity levels, but the young may be dependent on drinking from lenses of freshwater that temporarily float on heavier saltwater following rainfall (Moler, 1992).

The diet consists mostly of crabs, fish, snakes, turtles, birds, and small mammals (including dogs), with insects and spiders included in the diet of juveniles (Moler, 1992). In Florida, mating occurs in late winter and early spring (Moler, 1992). Females lay hard-shelled eggs in April or May, which are buried in a simple hole or mound of soil or on a beach, stream bank, or canal levee (Gaby et al., 1985; Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989b; Grenard, 1991; Moler, 1992). Females are not as diligent about protecting the nest as Alligator mississippiensis, but will open the nest at hatching and transport young to the water in their mouths (Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989b; Moler, 1992).

Means of Introduction: This crocodile was illegally transported to Virginia then released into the swamp (Mitchell, 1994).  Pet release in Puerto Rico. Although the island of Puerto Rico is outside the normal native range for this species, an adult could theoretically have swum to Puerto Rico; however, because the individual collected was a juvenile, it is believed to be the result of a pet release. This same area also hosts a population of spectacled caiman (C. crocodylus) that resulted from pet releases (Lever, 2003; Kraus, 2009).

Status: This single C. acutus was collected; they are not established in Virginia (Mitchell, 1994), or in Puerto Rico.

Remarks: Several authors have summarized or reviewed the taxonomy of C. acutus (Smith and Smith, 1977; King, 1989; Ernst et al., 1999).  Liner (1994) provides a Spanish vernacular name for C. acutus in Mexico.  Various authors have provided summaries or reviews of the natural history of C. acutus (Neill, 1971; Alvarez del Toro, 1982; Gaby et al., 1985; Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989b; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Moler, 1992; Campbell, 1989; Kaiser et al., 2001; and a number of contributions compiled by Webb et al., 1987).  Lang (1989) has reviewed complexities of the social behavior of American crocodiles.  By far the most exhaustive review of the literature on C. acutus is by Ernst et al. (1999).  Scientific and standard English names follow Crother (2008).

In Florida, C. acutus prefers brackish waters and coastal mangrove swamps but may wander inland or out to sea (Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Moler, 1992).  One population of American crocodiles exists in the canal system of a Florida power plant (Gaby et al., 1985; Grenard, 1991).  Adults are fairly tolerant of high salinity levels, but the young may be dependent on drinking from lenses of freshwater that temporarily float on heavier saltwater following rainfall (Moler, 1992).  The diet consists mostly of crabs, fish, snakes, turtles, birds, and small mammals (including dogs), with insects and spiders included in the diet of juveniles (Alvarez del Toro, 1982; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Moler, 1992).  In Florida, mating occurs in late winter and early spring (Moler, 1992).  Females lay hard-shelled eggs in April or May, buried in a simple hole or mound of soil, on a beach, stream bank or canal levee (Gaby et al., 1985; Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989b; Grenard, 1991; Moler, 1992).  Females are not as diligent about protecting the nest as A. mississippiensis, but will open the nest at hatching and transport young to the water in their mouths (Kushlan and Mazzotti, 1989b; Moler, 1992). 

Although adult American crocodiles are potentially dangerous to humans, they are not prone to unprovoked attacks like some other species of the genus Crocodylus (Moler, 1992; Conant and Collins, 1998).  Crocodylus acutus is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, both federally and in the State of Florida (Moler, 1992; Mitchell, 1994; Levell, 1997).

References: (click for full references)

Alvarez del Toro, M. 1982. Los Reptiles de Chiapas. Tercera Edición, Corregida y Aumentada. Instituto de Historia Natural, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. 248 pp.

Ashton, R.E., Jr., and P.S. Ashton. 1991. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida. Part Two. Lizards, Turtles & Crocodilians. Revised Second Edition. Windward Publishing, Inc., Miami. 191 pp.

Barbour, T., and C. T. Ramsden. 1919. The herpetology of Cuba. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy at Harvard College 47(2):71-213, plates 1-15.

Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston. 280 pp.

Behler, J. L. 1999. National Audubon Society First Field Guide. Reptiles. Scholastic, Inc., New York. 160 pp.

Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 743 pp.

Campbell, J. A. 1998. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatán, and Belize. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. 380 pp

Carmichael, P., and W. Williams. 1991. Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians. World Publications, Tampa. 120 pp.

Carr, A. 1973. The Everglades. Time-Life Books, [New York]. 184 pp.

Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians. Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 616 pp.

Crombie, R. I. 1999. Jamaica. Pp. 63-92. In: B. I. Crother (editor). Caribbean Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego. 495 pp.

Crother, B.I. (chair). Committee on Standard and English and Scientific Names. 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Society for the Study of Amphibians and  Reptiles Herpetological Circular. No. 37. iii + 86p.

Duellman, W. E., and A. Schwartz. 1958. Amphibians and reptiles of southern Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 3(5):181-324.

Ernst, C. H., F. D. Ross, and C. A. Ross. 1999. Crocodylus acutus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (700):1-17.

Estrada, A. R., and R. Ruibal. 1999. A review of Cuban herpetology. Pp. 31-62. In: B. I. Crother (editor). Caribbean Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego. 495 pp.

Flores-Villela, O. 1993. Herpetofauna Mexicana. Carnegie Museum of Natural History Special Publication (17):i-iv, 1-73.

Gaby, R., M. P. McMahon, F. J. Mazzotti, W. N. Gillies, and J. R. Wilcox. 1985. Ecology of a population of Crocodylus acutus at a power plant site in Florida. Journal of Herpetology 19(2):189-198.

Grenard, S. 1991. Handbook of Alligators and Crocodiles. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 210 pp.

Groombridge, B. 1987. The distribution and status of world crocodilians. Pp. 9-21. In: G. J. W. Webb, S. C. Manolis, and P. J. Whitehead (editors). Wildlife Management: Crocodiles and Alligators. Surrey Beatty & Sons Pty Limited, Chipping Norton, Australia. 552 pp.

Guggisberg, C. A. W. 1972. Crocodiles. Their Natural History, Folklore and Conservation. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 204 pp.

Hirschhorn, H. H. 1986. Crocodilians of Florida and the Tropical Americas. The Phoenix Publishing Company, Miami. 64 pp. + errata.

Kaiser, H., E. J. R. Sihotang, K. M. Marson, K. M. Crane, J. Dayov, and L. L. Grismer. 2001. A breeding population of American crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus, on Roatán, Islas de la Bahía, Honduras. Herpetological Review 32(2):164-165.

King, [F.] W. 1989. Crocodylus acutus (Cuvier 1807). P. 8. In: F. W. King and R. L. Burke (editors). Crocodilian, Tuatara, and Turtle Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. The Association of Systematics Collections, Washington, DC. 216 pp.

King, F. W. 2000. Florida Museum of Natural History's Checklist of Florida Amphibians and Reptiles [online]. Available on URL: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herps/FL-GUIDE/Flaherps.htm. Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Kraus, F. 2009. Alien reptiles and amphibians: a scientific compendium and analysis. Springer Science, New York, 563 p.

Kushlan, J. A., and F. J. Mazzotti. 1989a. Historic and present distribution of the American crocodile in Florida. Journal of Herpetology 23(1):1-7.

Kushlan, J. A., and F. J. Mazzotti. 1989b. Population biology of the American crocodile. Journal of Herpetology 23(1):7-21.

Lamar, W. W. 1997. The World's Most Spectacular Reptiles & Amphibians. World Publications, Tampa. 210 pp.

Lang, J. W. 1989. Social behavior. Pp. 102-117. In: C. A. Ross (consulting editor). Crocodiles and Alligators. Facts on File, Inc., New York. 240 pp.

Lazell, J. D., Jr. 1989. Wildlife of the Florida Keys: A Natural History. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 250 pp.

Levell, J. P. 1997. A Field Guide to Reptiles and the Law. Second Revised Edition. Serpent's Tale Natural History Book Distributors, Lanesboro, Minnesota. 270 pp.

Lever, C., 2003, Naturalized reptiles and amphibians of the world: New York, New York, Oxford University Press, 318 p.

Liner, E. A. 1994. Scientific and common names for the amphibians and reptiles of Mexico in English and Spanish. Nombres científicos y comunes en Ingles y Españole de los anfibios y los reptiles de México. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular (23):i-vi, 1-113.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr., W. F. Loftus, and T. Steiner. 2000. The herpetofauna of Everglades National Park. Florida Scientist 63(2):84-103.

Mitchell, J. C. 1994. The Reptiles of Virginia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. 352 pp.

Moler, P [E.]. 1988. A Checklist of Florida's Amphibians and Reptiles. Nongame Wildlife Program, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee. 18 pp.

Moler, P. E. 1992. American crocodile. Crocodylus acutus Cuvier. Pp. 83-89. In: P. E. Moler (editor). Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida. Volume III. Amphibians and Reptiles. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 292 pp.

Murphy, J. C. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of Trinidad and Tobago. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 245 pp.

Neill, W. T. 1971. The Last of the Ruling Reptiles: Alligators, Crocodiles, and Their Kin. Columbia University Press, New York and London. 486 pp.

Powell, R., J. T. Collins, and E. D. Hooper, Jr. 1998. A Key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. 131 pp.

Powell, R., R. W. Henderson, K. Adler, and H. A. Dundee. 1996. An annotated checklist of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Pp. 51-91, plates 1-8. In: R. Powell and R. W. Henderson (editors). Contributions to West Indian Herpetology. A Tribute to Albert Schwartz. Contributions to Herpetology 12. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca. 475 pp.

Powell, R., J. A. Ottenwalder, and S. J. Incháustegui. 1999. The Hispaniolan herpetofauna: Diversity, endemism, and historical perspectives, with comments on Navassa Island. Pp. 93-168. In: B. I. Crother (editor). Caribbean Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego. 495 pp.

Reese, A. M. 1915. The Alligator and Its Allies. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London. 358 pp.

Ross, C. A., and W. E. Magnusson. 1989. Living crocodilians. Pp. 58-73. In: C. A. Ross (consulting editor). Crocodiles and Alligators. Facts on File, Inc., New York. 240 pp.

Schwartz, A., and R. W. Henderson. 1985. A Guide to the Identification of the Amphibians and reptiles of the West Indies Exclusive of Hispaniola. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee. 165 pp.

Schwartz, A., and R. W. Henderson. 1991. Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, Distributions, and Natural History. University of Florida Press, Gainesville. 720 pp.

Smith, H. M., and E. D. Brodie, Jr. 1982. A Guide to Field Identification. Reptiles of North America. Golden Press, New York. 240 pp.

Smith, H. M., and R. B. Smith. 1976. Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico. Volume III. Source Analysis and Index for Mexican Reptiles. John Johnson, North Bennington, Vermont. 23 pp., Am-T, App-102, Cor-4.

Smith, H. M., and R. B. Smith. 1977. Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico. Volume V. Guide to Mexican Amphisbaenians and Crocodilians. Bibliographic Addendum II. John Johnson, North Bennington, Vermont. 191 pp.

Smith, H. M., and R. B. Smith. 1993. Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico. Volume VII. Bibliographic Addendum IV and Index, Bibliographic Addenda II-IV, 1979-1991. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado. 1082 pp.

Stevenson, H. S. 1976. Vertebrates of Florida. Identification and Distribution. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville. 607 pp.

Webb, G. J. W., S. C. Manolis, and P. J. Whitehead (editors). 1987. Wildlife Management: Crocodiles and Alligators. Surrey Beatty & Sons Pty Limited, Chipping Norton, Australia. 552 pp.

Author: Louis A. Somma, Pam Fuller, and Ann Foster

Revision Date: 5/17/2019

Citation Information:
Louis A. Somma, Pam Fuller, and Ann Foster, 2019, Crocodylus acutus Cuvier, 1807: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=223, Revision Date: 5/17/2019, Access Date: 9/16/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

Disclaimer:

The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2019]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [9/16/2019].

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