CSL
Crocodylus moreletii (BIBRON & DUMERIL, 1851)


NAMES | DISTRIBUTION | HABITAT | STATUS | APPEARANCE | IMAGES | DIET | BREEDING | CONSERVATION

FAMILY:
ALLIGATORIDAE

A. mississippiensis
A. sinensis
C. crocodilus
C. c. apaporiensis
C. c. fuscus
C. latirostris
C. yacare
M. niger
P. palpebrosus
P. trigonatus

FAMILY:
CROCODYLIDAE

C. acutus
C. intermedius
C. johnstoni
C. mindorensis
C. moreletii
C. niloticus
C. novaeguineae
C. palustris
C. porosus
C. rhombifer
C. siamensis
M. cataphractus
O. tetraspis
T. schlegelii

FAMILY:
GAVIALIDAE

G. gangeticus

DICHOTOMOUS KEY
[German]

MAIN MENU

STATUS OF INFORMATION:
This information was most-recently updated January 2009 and is considered up-to-date. Please contact me directly regarding updates or corrections.

COMMON NAMES:
Morelet's crocodile, Cocodrilo de Morelet, Crocodile de Morelet, Central American crocodile, Mexican crocodile, Soft belly, Belize crocodile/alligator, Cocodrilo de Pantano, Lagarto de El Petén, Lagarto negro, Lagarto Pantanero, Lagarto Panza

NAME ETYMOLOGY:
> Crocodylus is derived from the Greek krokodeilos which means literally "pebble worm" (kroko = pebble; deilos = worm, or man) referring to the appearance of a crocodile.
> moreletii means "of Morelet", after the French naturalist P.M.A. Morelet (1809-1892) who discovered this species in Mexico in 1850

DISTRIBUTION:
[CLICK ON MAP FOR DETAILED RANGE]
Distribution map Belize, Guatemala, Mexico

HABITAT:
Mainly areas of freshwater, including swamps and marshes in forested areas. More recently found in brackish water around coastal areas. Juveniles utilise dense cover. Adults are known to aestivate in burrows during the adverse conditions associated with the dry season. Range overlaps with C. acutus, but relationships between the two species are poorly known.

STATUS:
     CITES: Appendix I
     IUCN Red List: LRcd (LOW RISK, CONSERVATION DEPENDENT)
     Estimated wild population: 10,000 to 20,000
Summary: Recent survey information shows moderate densities, and still found over its historic distribution. Significant conservation program underway

APPEARANCE:
[click on image for enlargement]
Head drawing Relatively small species, usually reaching 3 m in length. Snout is quite broad for a crocodile. Similar colouration to C. acutus, but general tone is darker - a greyish brown with darker bands and spots on body and tail. Iris is silvery brown. Heavy scalation on the neck. Juvenile colouration is a brighter yellow with black banding.

Dentition codeDENTITION:
5 pre-maxillary; 13-14 maxillary; 15 mandibular
Total no. of teeth = 66-68

IMAGES:
[click on image for enlargement]

Click Skull of adult crocodile Click Front view of adult Morelet's crocodile Click Adult Morelet's crocodile

Click Adult Morelet's crocodile (low angle)

DIET:
Juveniles consume small invertebrates in and around the water, as well as vertebrates (generally small fish). Their diet expands to include a greater variety of prey as they grow larger (e.g. aquatic snails, fish, reptiles including Kinosternon mud turtles, birds, and mammals - including domestic animals). They may also scavenge.

BREEDING:
20 to 45 eggs are laid in a mound nest (approximately 3 m wide by 1 m high) before the onset of the rainy season. This is located near water, or on floating vegetation. Nests have been found which contain eggs from more than one female. Females guard the nest during the incubation period (around 80 days), and have been observed responding to the calls of juveniles by opening the nest during hatching. Both female and male parents protect the juveniles from both predators and aggressive conspecifics.

CONSERVATION:
The validity of C. moreletii was confused until the 1920s, as it was unsure where the type specimen had originated from - Guatemala or Cuba. It was therefore confused with both C. acutus and C. rhombifer.

Due to the high quality of the skin (i.e. a lack of ventral osteoderms), numbers of Morelet's crocodile were severely depleted by hunting during the middle of this century, and the trend continues through further illegal and indiscriminate taking of skins. Increased development of the rainforest areas is also threatening the survival of the species. There has been a reduction in density near human population centres in Belize, for example, and although the species is said to be widely distributed in Mexico, it appears that habitat destruction may be causing a steady decline. Despite this, there are notable exceptions to the declining trend (e.g. Sian KaŠn Biosphere Reserve, Mexico). Data exist for the status of the population over most of its range, although much of this is incomplete (especially in Guatemala). Current protection for the species is fairly ineffective. The species is also being bred outside its natural range, a fact which has led to problems through escaped animals establishing feral populations. These populations compete with native crocodilian species (e.g. escapes from farms in Mexico are threatening populations of C. acutus).

Biology and ecology of this species is still little known, although more data are becoming available from ongoing studies in Belize. Development of sustainable use programs is also underway - commercial farming operations have appeared, and both Belize and Guatemala have shown interest in sustainable management programs. More complete survey data are required first, however.

MORE INFORMATION:
For more information on distribution and conservation issues for this species,see the CSG
Action Plan resource.

SIGNIFICANT REFERENCES:

  • Alvarez del Toro, M (1974). Los Crocodylia de Mexico. Instituto Mexicano de Recursos Naturales Renovables.
  • Hunt, H (1975). Maternal behavior in the Morelet's crocodile, Crocodylus moreletii. Copeia 1975: 763-764
  • Hunt, H (1977). Aggressive behavior by adult Morelet's crocodiles, Crocodylus moreletii towards young. Herpetologica 33: 195-201
  • Perez-Higareda, G (1980). Notes on nesting of Crocodylus moreletii in Southern Veracruz, Mexico. Bull. Maryland Herp. Soc. 16: 52-53
  • Platt, S (1994). Crocodylus moreletii and Crocodylus acutus in Belize. Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter 13(4): 15-16
  • NAMES | DISTRIBUTION | HABITAT | STATUS | APPEARANCE | IMAGES | DIET | BREEDING | CONSERVATION

    SPECIES LIST | BIOLOGY DATABASE | COMMUNICATION | CAPTIVE CARE
    CROCS ON FILM | CROC SHOTS | CHINESE ALLIGATOR FUND | CROC LINKS


    Return to Crocodilians Natural History & Conservation
    Design and content by Adam Britton © 1995-2012 All rights reserved. [email]