Crocodile jaws and teeth
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February 27, 2022

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Committed to conserving Belize's critical habitats and protected species, specifically Crocodilians, through scientific research and education to prevent further extinction of species Worldwide and to preserve Belize's wildlife for future generations.
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Crocodile jaws and teeth

Letís talk about that iconic crocodile characteristic, teeth!

Crocodiles come out of the egg with a full set of chompers. While they may be small, their tiny teeth are effective at helping them capture and consume thing like insects and tiny minnows that are included in their diet at this age. As the crocs grow, so do the size of their teeth. Crocodiles are whatís called polyphyodontic, which means they have an endless supply of teeth throughout their life (just like #sharks)! That means if they accidentally knock one out or naturally shed a tooth, another tooth will replace it. Pretty nifty, right?

While crocs may have an endless supply of teeth, there are exceptions to the rule! So when would that might you see a #toothless crocodile?

1. If youíre looking at a bull / boss croc, he may be lacking teeth due to his #toughguy lifestyle. Crocs use their thick, sturdy skulls to head butt each other and the boss croc may have fought so much to get to the top, he completely damaged the alveoli, which regrow the teeth, to the point where they no longer function.

2. Another time weíve seen toothless crocs in when they are living in terrible polluted waters, but on a positive note when the environment is improved, their teeth come back!

3. The final time we see crocs without teeth is when youíre looking at a grandma or grandpa crocodile. Crocs get effected by old age too, and their bodily functions will slow down, resulting in a gummy appearance.

Donít let gummy crocs fool you though, they can still capture food just fine with out their teeth! With the strongest bite force in the world, crocs can adapt to live perfectly healthy lives without their pearly whites!

In 2012, a study was carried out measuring the bite strength of different species of crocodilians at different sizes. Unsurprisingly, variations in bite strength had a lot to do with size of the animals, and pound for pound, a gator has a similar size bite pressure to a croc. Surprisingly though, the shape of the snout had very little to do bite strength, and species like the Indian Gharial with their thin delicate appearing snout did not have the weak bite strength they were predicted to have.

Crocs may seem super tough, but their jaws are extremely sensitive to touch, more sensitive than a human fingertip. The crocodile's jaws are covered in tiny bumps called Integumentary Sense Organs (ISO's). These highly sensitive nerve endings enable crocodiles to sense water ripples from even a small water drop.

Why so sensitive? A crocodile can easily detect movements of their prey. For example, something may brush by, triggering that massive chomp, but on the softer side of these powerful jaws we find that crocs can be very gentle. A mother croc hears the calls of her hatching babies, she helps dig them out of the nest, and very gently she can assist with cracking the eggs open, or even gathering them into her strong jaws to carry the newborn babies to the safety of the water. It's amazing that something designed with so much force and power is also able to tenderly carry precious cargo.

But the king of bites was the largest specimen tested, a 17ft Indo-Pacific Croc, Crocodylus Porosus, who topped the charts for the strongest proven bite force in the world at 3700 psi! So unless you can bench press a pickup truck with one arm, you probably shouldn't emulate those silly buggers on TV, and keep your hands well away from the vice like grip of a crocodilians jaws!

Photographs by ACES

As more mangrove are chopped down, and more critical wetlands are filled in to make homes, people are going to be coming in closer proximity to crocs and seeing crocs more often.

It's our responsibility as the dominant species on the planet to figure out how to live with the environment and not kill, destroy, or remove everything that is so vital to balance. So here's a few helpful tips on how to live in areas with apex predators like crocodiles. (Click image for a larger version)

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