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Riding the Currents

Juvenile crocodile negotiating invisible currents

I took several pictures of this young saltwater crocodile negotiating the currents at Berry Springs Nature Park in the Northern Territory. This photo might not have been the sharpest, but it certainly has the most character. It really illustrates how a crocodile manages to stabilise itself while in turbid water. At all times, the crocodile's head remained horizontal on the water surface. You can see the limbs splayed out in all directions in an effort to prevent the body trunk from rolling on its axis, while the tail lashes out and provides additional stability and thrust in the water.

The difference in webbing between the front and hind foot is also very clearly illustrated. The front feet have virtually no webbing, and provide insignificant thrust in the water. The hind feet, however, are extensively webbed and you can see how effective this is at pushing against the water to provide forward momentum.

When you see a crocodile's eyes sitting on the surface, the rest of its body is normally hidden by the muddy water. However, don't imagine that the crocodile isn't constantly working to maintain its stationary position. Even in quite strong currents, adult crocodiles have an amazing ability to remain floating in almost exactly the same spot for extended periods.


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