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How was the huge ‘salty’ crocodile caught in Australia so big?

On this Monday, July 9, 2018, the photo provided by the Northern Territory Ministry of Tourism and Culture, a large crocodile is tied to a trailer after it was captured near Katherine, Australia. Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife said in a statement on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, the had caught a 600 kilogram (1,300-pound) reptile is only 30 kilometers (19 miles), downstream of Katherine Gorge, a major tourist attraction outside the Northern Territory town of Katherine. (NT Department of Tourism and Culture via the AP)

(NT Department of Tourism and Culture)

Australian parks and wildlife rangers caught a monster of a crocodile on Monday (9 July), according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The beast was 15 feet 5 inches long (4.7 meters) and weighed as much as 1,300 kg. (600 kg).

If a reptile long enough to block two lanes of traffic sounds great to you, you have a good intuition. Experts told Science that this Australian saltwater crocodile (“salty” in Aussie slang) was unusually large, even for his large species, although it is not the largest size alligators as this can reach.

“This animal was very large, but saltwater crocodiles can actually be much larger,” said Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, a paleontologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a reptile expert. “Lolong, a saltwater crocodile from the Philippines, was 6.17 m [20 feet 3 inches] long and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest crocodile ever caught. Other than Lolong, there are reports of a saltwater crocodile skin in Papua New Guinea was 6.2 m [20 feet 4 inches] in length. And of course, there are always rumors of even larger animals in the wild.” [Photos Compare Alligators and Crocodiles]

It is not surprising that this news comes from Australia, said Selina Groh, D. Ph. student of the UCL-Birkbeck, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in London, and expert in crocodylians (a group of crocodiles, alligators and the Indian gharial).

“All Over the world there are about 23 species of … of crocodylians,” Groh told Live Science. “This, the salties in Australia are the largest that exist in the world — only the nile crocodile in Africa and the American alligator in the neighborhood.”

Still, the scientists said, a typical salty not so great.

To achieve this size, Groh said, this crocodile probably had the advantage of warm weather, plenty of room to roam and large prey to hunt.

“Optimal climatic conditions (such as in some places in Australia) with a few cold periods make it easier for the crocs to grow larger,” Groh said.

Salt males tend to be much larger than females, Drumheller-Horton said, although age is a big factor in how big these beasts can grow.

“We think that crocodylians … had what we call an indeterminate growth, meaning they continue to grow throughout their life,” Drumheller-Horton said. “There is research on American alligators suggests that this might not be the case and that the growth does taper off in the very old animals. But it is absolutely true that these animals continue to grow long after they reach sexual maturity. So, in principle, a larger crocodile is an older crocodile.”

The Australian rangers who trapped the crocodile told the Herald, that this crocodile “maybe” more than 60 years old.

Groh said that the animal’s large size was certainly even more fearsome predator.

“Crocodiles and alligators have some of the strongest bite force among all living animals, and the strength of the biting force is directly correlated with the body size,” Groh said. “This increase in bite force also makes them potentially dangerous.”

Saltwater crocs are very powerful biters, even among crocodylians, Drumheller-Horton said, pointing at records of bites topping 3,600 pounds-force (16,000 newton).

That made the removal of this crocodile of a residential area, a particularly good idea, Groh said, pointing to evidence that saltwater crocodiles are especially likely to attack humans and that larger crocs are more dangerous to human life.

Still, if we lived in an previously point in the past 200 million years, when dozens of more crocodylian species roamed the Earth, a 4.7-m capture probably would not have made news, Drumheller-Horton said.

“As a paleontologist,” Drumheller-Horton said: “I feel obliged to point out that while a 4.71-meter-long croc is large by modern standards, fossil crocodiles and their closest relatives was much greater. A number of extinct species, topped 10 m (33 ft] in length, including Deinosuchus, Purussaurus , and Sarcosuchus.”

Originally published on Live Science.

 

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