Monday, February 18, 2013

How can crocodiles survive for so long without eating?

Crocodiles are supremely successful predators. They are able to hunt anything from frogs to buffaloes, and they have an amazingly efficient digestive system.

mr. gator
Huge Monitor lizard of Pulau Tiga, Sabah. This not-so-distant cousin of the croc can go without food for more than 2 years. Photo by de engineur

battle for food
Crocs of Tuaran Crocodile Farm, Sabah. Big crocodiles can go for a year or more without feeding. Photo by de engineur

Crocodiles have extremely acidic stomachs that enable them to digest bones, shells and even horns to extract as much energy as possible from their prey. Due to this exceptionally high conversion rate, they can store as much as 60% of the energy they consume as fat on the tail and other parts of the body.

Although most crocodiles eat about 50 meals a year, they can survive a whole year, and sometimes even two or three years, without eating anything.

Two years? You've got to be kidding me!

They have a very slow metabolism and are cold-blooded, with tiny brains that don't need to be kept warm. So unlike mammals such as ourselves, they don't need to use a lot of energy maintaining a constant body temperature.

They are ectotherms, which means that they get heat from their environment, basking in the sun when they need to warm up and get moving, or cooling off in water. They can also slow down their heartbeat to one or two beats per minute.

And you, how long can you go without food?


Anonymous said...

That's a huge lizard. Is that a Komodo dragon?

de engineur said...

This is a monitor lizard, you can find it here in PULAU TIGA. It's a nice weekend picnic destination