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How do crocodiles chomp?

Jane Lindholm
Vermont Public

Why do lizards have scales? Why are reptiles cold-blooded? Why do lizards have long tongues? How do lizards grow their tails back? Are crocodiles dinosaurs? What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Why do crocodile eyes look like they have mirrors in the back? How do crocodiles chomp? Why do crocodile teeth stay sharp? Why are crocodiles green? Why do crocodiles swim? Answers to all of your crocodile and alligator questions with Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez, one of the researchers known as the Croc Docs at the University of Florida.

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  • The Florida Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist.
  • Alligators have rounded snouts, only show their top teeth, and are usually dark in color. Crocodiles have narrow snouts and toothy grins that show both upper and lower teeth, and they are often lighter in color. 
  • Crocodilians include crocodiles, alligators, caiman and gharials. Gharials are found in India. Caimans are native to South America. 
  • Alligator means “one who binds,” in Latin. When an alligator grabs its prey, it wraps around the animal and then twists. Most of the time they do this underwater. IT’s sometimes called a death roll.
  • Crocodilians are able to see underwater thanks to the nictitating membrane - a special part of the eye which acts like built-in goggles. The membrane slides up when the lizard is underwater and recedes when the crocodilian’s eyes are out of the water. The nictitating membrane protects crocs’ eyes and helps them see clearly when they're swimming.
  • Crocs and gators and many other animals have another special part of their eye. This one is called the tapetum lucidum. It captures light and reflects it, kind of like a mirror, and enhances vision in low light. Many animals with good night vision have a tapetum lucidum. Sadly, humans do not! 
  • Alligators shed teeth and can grow new ones.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.

But Why is a project of Vermont Public.

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