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Eating


Big _C.niloticus_ swallows deer.



Crocodylians hunt many things and most crocodylians (with the exception of Gavialis gangeticus) are generalists who don't mind what they eat. Anyway more will go into crocodylian diet as you see each individual species. This part is just to show you how crocodylians eat.

Now crocodylians have some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. Their jaws are able to generate 15-18 tonnes of pressure inbetween each tooth. Crocodiles are able to bite straight through bone and alligators are capable of crushing the shells of turtles. Now the teeth in crocodylians are designed to stab and grab. They aren't serrated for slicing like in Komodo monitors, but instead are long conical teeth that are sometimes recurved to get a better grip on the prey. These teeth are great for catching prey, but are not so great for ripping out chunks of prey or for chewing them. But, as usual, crocodylians figured a way around this. When a crocodylian say the Nile crocodile in the above picture, kills a large animal like a water buffalo, it will then proceed to grab a piece of that animal (say a limb) and then begin vigorously shaking and jerking it's neck until the piece falls off. Now this is good for relatively small pieces, but water buffalo are huge animals so the croc must find another way to remove a piece of it. The animal solves this problem by a little technique known as the Death Roll. The death roll is basically this. The crocodile grabs hold a say a limb. It then rotates it's entire body in the water, doing a 360o turn in the water which then severes that piece of meat. This is a very effective technique and the crocodylians have it down to an art, with some animals able to make many many consecutive roles for one piece.

So now the croc has the bite size chunk, so now all it has to do is swallow it, but crocodylians, like their bird cousins, have no swallowing mechanisms in their throat and so must rely on gravity to get the food down their gullets. So a crocodylian swallowing a large chunk of meat looks alot like a big scaly bird. This is one of those truth is stranger than fiction moments :)



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