Ancient Reptiles

Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are also known as estuarine crocodiles or marrchila in the Burarra language.

Saltwater crocodile
Saltwater Crocodile
"Salties" can grow to over 6 m in length! Photo courtesy Ian Morris.

Saltwater crocodiles can exceed 6 m (over 19 ft); they are much larger than freshwater crocodiles and have broader snouts. These large salties can weigh up to 1 000 kg (2 200 lb).

Saltwater crocodiles can live up to 100 years but these older crocodiles are rare because they were hunted almost to extinction last century. They have been a protected species since 1972, but can be hunted by Indigenous Australians. Since being protected crocodile numbers have recovered well across northern Australia.

Breeding season for saltwater crocodiles runs for about six months during the wet season from October to April. A female crocodile will build a mound of vegetation close to water as a nest and then lay up to 50 eggs in it.

The temperature of egg incubation determines the sex of the crocodile. At 32°C (90°F) most hatchlings are male but any variation in temperature above or below this temperature will result in more females. After hatching, the mother carries the young crocodiles in her mouth to the water. They stay with her for about 2 weeks.

Saltwater crocodiles eat birds, fish, long necked turtles and other crocodiles.