Crocodiles do not live in the ocean. They are reptiles that need to breathe through their lungs. Some species swim out to sea to hunt but they don’t live there.
Many crocodiles are comfortable in freshwater, including the saltwater species. However, two crocodiles are the most commonly seen in marine waters. These are the American Crocodile and the Indo-Pacific Crocodile.
How can Crocodiles Survive at Sea?
Crocodiles survive at sea by using unique salt glands on their tongue to filter out excess sodium from the water.
They use their salt glands to excrete excess sodium and chloride ions.
Because of their helpful salt glands, crocodiles can stay for long periods in seawater and survive there even if they do not drink fresh water for a long time. Scientists call these glands the lingual salt glands.
The lingual salt glands are unique to crocodiles. It was first identified in 1981. These glands have around 20 to 40 pores.
Why do Crocodiles Swim out to Sea?
It is not unusual for people at sea to see crocodiles swimming. Crocodiles can not live in the ocean, so when they swim out to sea, they are looking for food or looking for new land.
A team of Australian scientists studied a group of 27 seafaring estuarine crocodiles from Cape York in Northern Australia, using acoustics and satellite tracking to track their movements.
In the study, the scientists tagged 14 adult estuarine crocodiles from the river Wenlock with GPS devices. They found that both males and females swam long distances in the ocean.
The typical distance that these crocodiles travelled was around 50 kilometers away from their habitat. The scientists also found out that the crocodiles traveled about an hour after the tide had changed. It means they can go with the flow and not fight the current.
There was one crocodile that travelled 590 kilometers in 25 days. Another travelled 411 kilometers. Scientists found that the crocodiles stopped traveling if the current was against their intended direction.
As such, they concluded that crocodiles could not travel far in the vast ocean unless the current is favorable. They ride along the current to reach their destination.
Can Freshwater Crocodiles Live in the Ocean?
No freshwater or saltwater crocodiles can live in the ocean. Crocodiles are not marine reptiles, and they depend on land to eat, rest, and lay their eggs.
Freshwater crocodiles live in rivers, creeks, and lakes. They are also common in wetlands and billabongs. What’s great about the freshwater crocodile is that it can live in areas where the saltwater crocodile cannot, like rocky areas.
All crocodiles are semi-aquatic animals. So even if they ride the ocean’s current, they cannot live in the deep parts of the ocean.
Read More: Are Crocodiles Dinosaurs?
Do Crocodiles Hunt in the Ocean?
Crocodiles do not hunt in the ocean. Crocodiles rarely open their mouth when underwater, as they can swallow water and drown.
Crocodiles have a palatal valve located at the back of the mouth. It is a flap of skin that closes over the throat. If a crocodile takes a bite, its mouth is still partially open while dragging the prey in the water.
During this attack, the palatal valve closes, thus allowing the crocodiles to drag prey underwater without drowning. It is common advice to try to open this valve if someone’s hand is stuck in the crocodile’s mouth.
In the ocean, crocodiles cannot open their mouths wide underwater. If they do this, they will swallow water and drown.
Are Crocodiles Saltwater or Freshwater?
Crocodiles can live in saltwater, freshwater, or brackish water depending on the species.
The freshwater crocodile is a small one. Its scientific name is Crocodylus johnstoni or Crocodylus johnson. The males can grow only up to about nine feet, and the females up to seven feet.
Saltwater crocodiles are bigger than freshwater ones. They are also more widespread. So when people talk of crocodiles in the sea, they refer to the saltwater crocodiles.
As of the moment, the saltwater crocodile is the largest species living crocodilian. They can grow up to 20 feet. They are hyper-carnivores and are highly opportunistic.
Can Crocodiles Live in Estuaries?
Some saltwater crocodiles live in estuaries. An estuary is a body of water where the sea meets the river. These places house unique plants and animal communities—all of which have adapted to the mixture of fresh and salty water.
Brackish water refers to a mix of fresh water from the land and seawater.
Why Can’t Crocodiles Live in the Ocean?
Crocodiles cannot live in the sea or ocean because they are not marine animals. They cannot breathe underwater, and they need dry land to hunt, eat, and reproduce.
Because of this, they cannot live in the ocean; they stay close to shallow bodies of water. Saltwater crocodiles live in estuaries, and freshwater crocodiles live in lakes and rivers.
Although crocodiles are slow and clumsy on land, they depend on land to lay their eggs and to sleep.
Crocodiles do not live in the ocean, but they do travel. Compared to marine animals, crocodiles are poor swimmers. They cannot fight the current of the sea. When they travel in the ocean, they only swim with the current.
Crocodiles go to the ocean to move to another territory. However, they cannot live permanently in the ocean without gills. As semi-aquatic animals, they rely on the land for food.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.