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Crocodylus acutus (American Crocodile). Long distance juvenile movement

Herpetological Review
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Abstract

Crocodylus acutus (American Crocodile) is the most widely distributed New World crocodilian species with its range extending from Peru in the south to the southern tip of peninsular Florida in the north. Crocodylus acutus occupies primarily coastal brackish water habitat, however it also occurs in freshwater to hypersaline habitats (Thorbjarnarson 2010. In Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. [Third Edition], American Crocodile Crocodylus acutus, pp. 46–53 S.C. Manolis and C. Stevenson. Crocodile Specialist Group, Darwin). There is limited literature on long distance movements of juvenile crocodilians worldwide and no literature on juvenile crocodiles in Florida. However, adult C. acutus in Florida have been documented to make seasonal movements of 5–15 km from preferred foraging habitat to nesting beaches (Mazzotti 1983. The Ecology of Crocodylus acutus in Florida. PhD Dissertation. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. 161pp), and one adult was documented making a 35 km trip from her nest site to preferred foraging habitat (Cherkiss et. al. 2006. Herpetol. Rev. 38:72–73). Rodda (1984. Herpetologica 40:444–451) reported on juvenile C. acutus movement in Gatun Lake, Panama, and found that juveniles stayed within 1 km of their nest site for the first month. Movements of juvenile Crocodylus porosus (Saltwater Crocodile) in a river system in Northern Australia showed a maximum movement of 38.9 km from a known nest site, with the majority of the crocodiles staying within 15.6 km downstream to 6.8 km upstream (Webb and Messel 1978. Aust. Wildlife Res. 5:263–283). Juvenile movement of Crocodylus niloticus (Nile Crocodile) in Lake Ngezi, Zimbabwe showed crocodiles restricted their movements from 1.0 km up to 4.5 km through the wet and dry seasons (Hutton 1989. Am. Zool. 29:1033–1049). Long distance movements of alligators were recorded for sizes ranging from 28 cm to 361 cm in a coastal refuge in Louisiana, where the distance traveled ranged from 0.3 km to 90.2 km. The data showed that the smaller alligators moved greater distance than larger ones (Lance et al. 2011. Southeast Nat. 10:389–398). An ongoing 30 year mark and recapture study for Crocodylus acutus in Florida allowed us to look at long distance movement (>30 km) of juveniles (30km). Initial and most recent captures as a juvenile were used to analyze distances moved (Fig. 1). These distances were measured linearly between capture locations. Maximum linear distances of 76.3 km and 69.6 km were recorded for animals 4838 and 6662. All crocodiles moved from nesting habitat through potentially optimal nursery habitat prior to reaching their recapture locations. These juvenile long distance movements could be due to larger crocodiles facilitating their dispersal from the nest location (Lance et al. 2011. op. cit.). These data (Table 1.) support that there is exchange of individuals among the nesting colonies and our ongoing efforts to monitor this threatened species allow us to make observations of how juvenile crocodiles are moving throughout the landscape in an ecosystem currently undergoing restoration.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Crocodylus acutus (American Crocodile). Long distance juvenile movement
Series title Herpetological Review
Volume 46
Issue 4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 2 p.
First page 623
Last page 624
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N