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Do Crocodiles Hibernate? (Crocodile Aestivation Guide)

Crocodiles do not hibernate. Since they are cold-blooded reptiles, they cannot produce heat independently. As such, hibernation is not possible. Instead, they to go into a semi-dormant state called aestivation if they can’t find enough food, for example during a drought.

Crocodile resting
Crocodile resting

During colder months, crocodiles go dormant. If there is drought, they do the same. If the dormancy happens in summer, it is called aestivation. Dormancy during winter is called brumation, which is something that crocodiles do not do. 

How Do Crocodiles Aestivate?

Crocodiles Aestivate by slowing down their metabolism, remaining sedentary, and sometimes by looking for a burrow to shelter from the extreme heat.

Crocodiles aestivate during extreme heat. There are at least ten species of crocodilians that aestivate. When crocodiles do this, they depress their metabolism. It means they slow down their bodies’ processes. 

During the aestivation process, crocodiles look for a cave or burrow. Then, they get inside, and the crocodiles slow their breathing and heart rate. 

Even so, the body still works. It still uses water and fat reserves and generates toxic wastes. While in this “hibernation” mode, the crocodile will not eat and drink for several months. 

The process is not yet fully understood. When crocs aestivate, they are highly sedentary. They will not even budge. 

Nile crocodiles in South Africa dig tunnels and take refuge in there. These tunnels are typically 18 meters deep, but some can reach 2.7 meters. When they aestivate, they share the same characteristics with animals that hibernate. 

Once it rains, the crocodile leaves and looks for something to eat. If the sun is up, they also leave their burrows, but only the biggest crocs can do this. Small ones cannot stand the heat. 

Crocodile in the sun
Crocodiles aestivate to escape the extreme summer sun and drought

How Long Can Crocodiles Hibernate?

Crocodiles don’t hibernate, they aestivate, a process similar to hibernation but to escape the extreme summer conditions. Crocodiles typically aestivate between May and August. The aestivation period happens for a few months, only when the environment is too hot. Once the land has rain or the temperature subsides, the aestivation period ends.

What makes crocodiles fortunate is that they have slow metabolism even if they are not in a state of aestivation. Even during periods of regular activity, they can make a big meal last for a month.  

When crocodiles dig a burrow, they dig deep enough to cover their entire body. Sometimes, they only expose the tip of their snout.

After digging, there is mud in the burrow. The mud eventually hardens around the croc’s body and then protects the crocodile from excessive heat. It is how a crocodile can stay tucked away for months. 

What Else do Crocodiles do if it is Hot? 

Some crocodiles look for dams that can provide them with a water supply for a year. If they find one, there surely will be some animals there that the crocodile can eat. The water will also keep them cool. 

Freshwater crocodiles in hot areas may migrate to places where there are more permanent water pools. It is much better to do this than to aestivate since aestivation can stunt growth. 

In some areas, crocodiles converge in artificial dams. One such example is Lake Argyle in Western Australia. 

There are more than 35,000 crocodiles in Lake Argyle. The original number was only 350. Over time, the lake filled, and some higher points became islands. These islands are quite small. It has eventually become a perfect breeding ground for crocs because of the lack of egg predation. 

With more habitat destruction and increasing global temperatures, many crocodile species are now facing extinction.

Crocodile swimming in clear water
In period of extreme heat, crocs may seek out bodies of water instead of entering aestivation

FAQs:

Do Crocodiles Brumate?

Crocodiles do not brumate. There is just no reason for them to go dormant in cold weather because crocodiles do not live in areas that freeze. As such, crocodiles do not really brumate as snakes do.

How do Crocodiles Survive During Hibernation? 

Crocodiles can survive without water for several months, and during their aestivation period, they reduce their metabolism and draw energy from their fat reserves.

They do this until the rain arrives. And once it rains, crocodiles will come out of their burrows to find food. Outside of aestivation, crocodiles live long. 

Summary

Crocodiles do not hibernate, and they rarely brumate. Brumation typically happens to alligators and caimans that live in areas that freeze during winter. Since crocodiles live in tropical areas, they aestivate. 

Aestivation is what many cold-blooded animals do when the temperature rises. For example, the crocodiles look for caves or dig tunnels and stay there for months. During g aestivation, crocodiles display similar behavior with animals hibernating during winter. 

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