‘Crocodiles are better survivors than humans’

Smile! An adult Gharial crocodile can have up to 110 teeth. © Getty

Are they the world’s greatest survivors? Millions of years ago, an asteroid wiped out almost every animal – but not crocodiles. New research suggests their shape is the key to their success.

What’s happening

The dinosaurs were the most successful land animals ever to live. They roamed the Earth safely for 165 million years.

But when an asteroid the size of a mountain fell from space, almost all of them were killed. Somehow, crocodiles survived – and they have lived on Earth ever since.

Find out more

Crocodiles are one of the few creatures we see today that survive from the time of the dinosaurs. For years, experts have wanted to know why.

Now, researchers have revealed that it is all down to crocodiles’ unique shape and skills.

Crouching low to the ground, they can hide easily. They thrive in water and on land. Most importantly, they can survive in pitch darkness.

Experts say this helped them survive the asteroid. After the rock landed, huge dust clouds and volcanic eruptions made the sky dark for over a year.

Crocodiles have been on the planet for more than 200 million years. They have outlived all other dinosaurs except birds, without needing to evolve. They have even survived two ice ages.

Are they the world’s greatest survivors?

Some say…

Yes. Their bodies helped them survive a huge disaster that wiped out almost all other creatures. They can survive practically anywhere. They can live in complete darkness with no trouble. Crocodiles can recover from terrible injuries and they don’t need to eat much to stay alive. Their whole bodies are made to be good at surviving.

Others think…

No, humans are! We are not the biggest or the fastest creatures on Earth. We don’t have any of the skills that crocodiles have. But we are still at the top of the food chain. We have intelligence which means we can have languages. We build cities. We have even gone to space. We are not just good at surviving. We make the most of life, too.

You Decide

  1. Is it better to have brains or strength?

Activities

  1. Paint a scene from a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Include a crocodile in your picture.

Some People Say...

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”

Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”. Wildlife expert and environmentalist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Asteroid
An asteroid is a chunk of rock and metal in outer space that is in orbit around the sun. The asteroid that caused the dinosaurs to die out landed near modern-day Mexico, causing huge earthquakes and climate change.
Unique
Being one of its kind. Crocodiles were the only creatures alive that had the same shape and could survive in such different conditions.
Thrive
To grow and develop very well, or flourish.
Pitch darkness
Completely dark. Crocodiles do not need light to be able to find the food and water they need to survive.
Volcanic eruptions
A volcano is formed when hot molten rock, ash and gases escape from an opening in the Earth's surface. Sometimes it erupts, spilling lava down the slope. Experts believe the shock of the asteroid caused huge changes on Earth – including hundreds of eruptions at the same time.
Evolve
The process by which living things can gradually change over time to adapt to their surroundings. Birds also survived from the time of the dinosaurs, but they have evolved to be much smaller. The researchers say crocodiles didn’t need to evolve because they were so well adapted to begin with.
Ice ages
A period of time when the polar ice caps expanded because the Earth’s temperatures dropped very low. During these periods land in North America and Northern Europe was covered by giant ice fields and glaciers.

Subjects

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