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Do Crocodiles Swim?

Do Crocodiles Swim
Crocodile Swimming

Yes, crocodiles swim, but they are not good swimmers if compared with marine animals. They do not even come close. Unlike fish, crocodiles do not swim in deep water.

While crocodiles are semi-aquatic animals, they are not marine animals. They are not equipped with the right physiology to swim deep.

Do crocodiles swim in deep water?

Morelet's Crocodile
Morelet’s Crocodile

No, they do not swim in deep water. A study of how deep crocodiles dive revealed that the maximum dive exceeded three meters or nine feet. However, the average depth of a crocodile dive was only 0.4 meters, or about one and a half feet.

The result of the study shows that crocodiles are not excellent divers. It is true that they go deep sometimes, but it is not a regular behavior. If a crocodile dives into deep water, it is out of its individualistic nature.

The study also showed the dive length of a crocodile decrease as the body temperature rises. The maximum diving length was 119 minutes. However, the average was only less than 45 minutes.

The researchers found out that crocodiles displayed symptoms of bradycardia. Bradycardia is a situation where the heartbeat is slower than normal.

Despite these findings, it is not unusual to see crocodiles dive at the bottom of a river. They do this if they are hunting. However, one must not confuse “deep” with ocean deep.

Although there are deep rivers, crocodiles do not have the right body to handle that pressure. For example, the Congo River has parts that are 720 feet deep. However, there is no record of a crocodile diving that deep.

Related Article: Saltwater Crocodile vs Alligator: How Are They Different?

Do crocodiles swim in the ocean?

Crocodiles in water with mouths open
Crocodiles in water with mouths open

Yes, they do, but only in shallow areas. When crocodiles go to the ocean, they are in the process of moving to another territory.

When crocodiles venture to the sea, what they do is ride the ocean current and then let that current take them somewhere. Unlike fish, the crocodile does not fight the current.

It is somewhat of a mystery how crocodiles have a presence globally despite being poor swimmers. Scientists recently discovered that crocodiles ride the currents in the ocean. They can survive a long time without eating and drinking.

Crocodiles only do this when the current is favorable. Because of this behavior, scientists now know how crocodiles spread their species around the world.

In this study, the scientists tagged 27 adult crocs with transmitters. These transmitters allowed the scientists to track crocodile movements every 12 months. Overall, they recorded over 1.2 million data packets.

They found out that both male and female crocodiles swim in the ocean. The journeys were not short ones. Most of them travelled no less than 50 kilometers from their starting point.

From this study, the scientists also saw that crocodiles ride the ocean current an hour after it changed. What crocodiles do is hang out by the riverbank in estuarine bodies of water, waiting for the tide to change.

When the tide changed against the crocodile’s favor, it would go back to a bank and wait again. One interesting incident was about this crocodile that travelled 590 kilometers in 25 days. It was a small male that was about four meters long.

Related Article: Are Crocodiles and Alligators Related

How does a crocodile swim?

Saltwater Crocodile

When crocodiles swim, they tuck their feet on their sides. It is the tail that makes a crocodile swim. When a crocodile wants to move sideways, it uses its webbed feet to navigate the direction. When in water, crocodiles can be vertical or horizontal.

Related Article: Are crocodiles bulletproof?

Does a crocodile hunt underwater?

American Crocodile

Yes, crocodiles hunt underwater. However, they do not eat underwater as a shark does. Crocodiles are not fish, which means they have lungs similar to land animals. If they swallow too much water, they will drown.

When crocodiles hunt underwater, they bite the prey and bring it to the surface. Here, they cut chunks of the victim’s flesh, and then they swallow above the water’s surface.

Crocodiles have a palatal valve, which they close underwater. When they bite, this valve remains closed. It is why they can bite prey underwater without swallowing water. However, thy cannot swallow unless this valve opens, and it is why they must go back to the surface to eat.

Related Article: Are Crocodiles Herbivores, Carnivores or Omnivores?

Do crocodiles swim in saltwater?

Saltwater Croc

Yes, they swim in saltwater. Many crocodile species live in saltwater habitats, not just rivers and lakes. For example, one of the largest crocodile species, the saltwater crocodile, lives in estuarine bodies of water.

An estuarine is a place where freshwater from a river meets the saltwater of the ocean. These waters are also salty. Yet, crocodiles can survive in them.

Why? Because crocodiles have salt glands that release salt from their bodies. Their salt-excreting glands are on their tongues.

How do crocodiles breathe underwater?

Saltwater Crocodile

Crocodiles do not breathe underwater. They are reptiles, but not amphibians. Their skin cannot process oxygen from water. Neither are they fish—they have no gills.

When underwater, crocodiles hold their breaths. However, they have the power to reduce the distribution of oxygen in their body parts and only concentrate it to where they need it the most. 

Crocodiles can also slow down their heartbeat. And in doing so, they are not using too much energy that would otherwise spend oxygen.

Crocodiles breathe like humans. They inhale air, and they process that air in their lungs. It is also the crocodile’s lungs that convert air into carbon dioxide, which they breathe out. If they do not come back to the surface for air, they will drown. 

Summary

Crocodiles swim, but they do not swim deep. The point of contention here is what deep means. Studies show that the average dive is less than two feet deep. While it is true that crocodiles can go to the riverbed, they do not swim as deep as fishes do.

Crocodiles swim in the ocean, and they do this to travel to another territory. They do not swim to get to their destination, but they instead ride the current. If the current is not favorable, they go back to the riverbank and wait until the current changes.

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