Sunday, 7 June 2009

Cool Colchester Crocodiles

As Traumador has so enthusiastically requested, here are the two crocodilians I saw at Colchester Zoo this past Wednesday. A gorgeous place, by the way, with almost everything one could want out of a zoo. Except dinosaurs (the non-avian kind).

Above photos:
Cuban crocodile
Crocodylus rhombifer Cuvier, 1807
Crocodylidae; Crocodilia; Sauropsida; Chordata
Colchester Zoo
June 2009

Among the most endangered of the crocodilians (the 'privileged' species to be Critically Endangered are the gavial [Gavialis gangeticus], Chinese alligator [Alligator sinensis], Orinoco crocodile [Crocodylus intermedius], Philippine crocodile [C. mindorensis], Cuban crocodile and Siamese crocodile [C. siamensis]), the Cuban crocodile is found obviously in Cuba, but also on the nearby island which goes by the names of Isla de Juventud, Isle of Youth or Isle of Pines. It formerly ranged on other northern Caribbean islands. C. rhombifer looks quite distinctive for a crocodile, with dark and pale scales on its sides.

Slender-snouted crocodile
Mecistops cataphractus (Cuvier, 1825)
Crocodylidae; Crocodilia; Sauropsida; Chordata
Colchester Zoo
June 2009
Sorry for the quality of the photo, but I had to include it. The slender-snouted crocodile is quite aptly named, as you can see. I almost mistook it for a gavial, except I knew there weren't any in Colchester Zoo. Note the genus is no longer Crocodylus (where the majority of crocodiles 'live'), but Mecistops (meaning 'longest face'). M. cataphractus is a fairly widespread species from western and central Africa, thus sharing its range with two other crocodilians, the well known Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and the tiny dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis). The slender snout with smaller, finer teeth indicate that it relies on daintier prey than the Nile crocodile. This makes sense; if the two were in direct competition, the bigger, beefier Nile croc would always win. I spoke about Osteolaemus in a previous illustrated blog post.


Brian Lee Beatty said...

Wow, I hadn't seen a good picture of Mecistops in a while, thanks for sharing this, Mo.
I know loads of people have looked at crocodylian rostrum architecture, but I wish more people would consider exploring their dental anatomy and histology, particularly enamel and periodontium. It seems that the only archosaurs we have good data on that for is the american alligator. That's sad, considering how many people really like archosaurs. The irony is that I think even though I am venturing into the world of archosaurs recently, I'm not very interested in the group itself, but mainly in how they resemble similar situations in odontocetes and tell us about tooth development and evolution in general....
Sorry for the diatribe, but those rare modern crocs get me excited!

Mo Hassan said...

Thanks :) Rare crocodiles get me excited too... I'm amazed that they had two, let alone one, species at Colchester! Interesting about the teeth of crocs being like those of odontocetes... I'd love to study that, presumably crocodilian dental anatomy is similar but still wildly different from mammalian. Don't fancy putting my head in different crocs' mouths though, best use museum specimens!