The mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) or also called marsh crocodile, broad snouted crocodile and mugger is a crocodilian widely found in Southern Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, but is probably extinct in Bangladesh. It in habits freshwater lakes, rivers and marshes, and prefers slow moving, shallow water bodies.
The Hindi word mugger means crocodile. The Sanskrit word makar means both, crocodile and a mythical crocodile-like-animal.
Crocodilus palustris was the scientific name proposed by René Lesson in 1831 who described the type specimen from the Gangetic plains. In subsequent years, several naturalists and curators of natural history museums described zoological specimens and proposed different names, including:
- C. bombifronsby John Edward Gray in 1844 for a specimen sent by the Museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal to the British Museum of Natural History.
- C. trigonopsalso by Gray in 1844 for a young mugger specimen from India
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: C. palustris
The Physical Characteristics of a Mugger Crocodile
The mugger crocodile is considered a medium sized crocodile, but has the broadest snout among living crocodiles. It has a powerful tail and webbed feet. Its visual, smelling and hearing senses are acute. Adult female muggers are about 2.5m in length and adult male muggers are about 3.5m in length. The largest known mugger is measured 5.63m in length. Adult muggers weigh around 200kgs.
Mugger crocodile hatchlings are pale olive with black spots. Adults are dark olive to grey or brown. The head is rough without any ridges and large scutes around the neck separates it from the back. The snout is slightly longer than broad with 19 upper teeth on each side.
Distribution and Habitat of Mugger Crocodiles
As mentioned before, the mugger crocodiles are native to freshwater habitats from Southern Iran to Indian Sub-continent.
In India, the mugger crocodiles are found in Rajasthan, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerela and Tamil Nadu States.
The behavior of Mugger Crocodiles
Female muggers obtain sexual maturity at a body length of around 1.8m – 2.2m at the age of about 6.5 years, and male at around 2.6m in body length. The reproduction cycle starts earliest in November at the onset of the cold season with courtship and mating.
Between February and June, females dig 35-55cm deep holes for nesting between 1 and 2000m away from the waterside. They lay up to two clutches with 8 to 46 eggs each. Eggs weigh 128g on average. Laying of one clutch usually takes less than half an hour. Thereafter, females scrape sand over the nest to close it.
Males have been observed to assist females in digging and protecting nest sites. Hatchling season is two months later, between April and June in India, and in Sri Lanka between August and September. Both females and males protect the young for up to one year.
Sex of the off-springs depends upon the temperature and exposure of nests to the sunshine. Females develops at constant temperatures of 28-31°C and males at 32.5°C.
The diet of a Mugger Crocodile
The diet of a mugger crocodile usually contains fish, snakes, turtles, birds and mammals including monkeys, squirrels, rodents, otters and dogs. It also scavenges on dead animals. Hatchlings feeds mainly on insects such as beetles, but also on crabs and shrimp and on vertebrates later on.
Sub-adult and adult muggers favor fish, but also prey on a small to medium sized ungulates up to the size of Chital deer.
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