Crocodiles Stages of Development
- The temperature of eggs helps determine the sex of the crocodile. Eggs kept at 88.88 degrees Fahrenheit are likely to produce males, while temperatures lower or higher yield more females. Immediately before hatching crocodiles make a chirping sound, signaling to their mothers to unearth the eggs from the mound that has protected them during their incubation period. Crocodiles hatch after a 90-day incubation period, but most will not survive to adulthood. Because of the success of predators, only 1 percent of hatchlings reach maturation. Hatchlings stay in freshwater areas.
- After hatchlings finish their first year of life they are referred to as juvenile crocodiles until they are about 4 years old. Juveniles, similar to hatchlings, cannot tolerate a high-saline environment. Because they still require freshwater, they will migrate up to 8 kilometers to find a suitable nursery environment. Their diet is limited to insects, crustaceans, fish, amphibians and small reptiles. Juveniles face many threats to their safety, particularly adult male crocs who are often territorial and will kill young crocodiles.
- Between age 4 until sexual maturity crocodiles are called subadults. They are substantially smaller than adults but no longer die from the threats of predators and saline water that hatchlings and juveniles face. Subadults migrate long distances to find uninhabited areas, free from other adults. Breeding adult crocs force subadults to leave freshwater areas and they travel to saline environments. They will not return to freshwater until they are ready to breed.
- Females become sexually mature around 10 to 12 years old while males are sexually mature at around 16 years old. Females migrate back to freshwater areas to lay their eggs. Crocodiles continue to grow throughout adulthood. Males can grow up to a maximum of 20 to 23 feet in length and females can grow to 8 to 10 feet. As crocodiles age their coloring fades and they lose the bright hues of the juvenile stage. Although adults still primarily eat small prey such as turtles, snakes, birds and crustaceans, they occasionally will eat larger animals. Large adult crocodiles can eat mammals like buffalo, livestock and monkeys.