Crocodilians, of which there are 23 species, are found in 91 countries of the world and are divided into three families: Alligatoridae (alligators and caimans), Crocodylidae (crocodiles), and Gavialidae (Gharials). All crocodilians are carnivores, feeding on a variety of carrion and live prey. The crocodiles have buccal, salt-secreting glands, which allow them to live in brackish environments and tolerate seawater for periods of time.
The American Alligator is found in freshwater lakes, rivers, swamps, and occasionally brackish water in North America from the Atlantic coastal plain of the Carolinas south to southern Florida and west on the Gulf coastal plain to south Texas. They can attain weights over 600 pounds and measure as much as 19 feet in length. Despite their large size and short legs, they can run up to 30 M.P.H. for a short distance.
The American Crocodile inhabits freshwater rivers and lakes and brackish coastal habitats such as tidal estuaries, lagoons, and mangrove swamps from southern Florida to northern South America. They feed primarily at night on aquatic organisms such as fish, crabs, turtles, and on birds. Their length measures between 19 and 23 feet.
Found throughout most of Africa and Madagascar and until recently Israel, the Nile Crocodile inhabits rivers, lakes, freshwater swamps, and brackish water. Fish and other small vertebrates form the greatest part of their diet, but as adults, they can take antelope, buffalo, young hippos, and large cats. Nile Crocodiles reportedly reach over 19 feet in length and have a confirmed reputation as man-eaters.
The largest living crocodile of them all and largest living reptile on earth is the Saltwater Crocodile, which has been confirmed to reach 20.7 feet and weigh over 1.5 tons. Salties, as they are called, are found from coastal east India to Southeast Asia and southeast through the Indonesian Islands to Papua, New Guinea, and northern Australia. They inhabit brackish water areas of coastlines and river mouths, freshwater rivers, billabongs, and swamps. Having a high tolerance of salinity has enabled the saltie to travel long distances by sea to populate islands. Feeding on crustaceans, turtles, monitor lizards, snakes, fish, and birds, they occasionally take buffalo, domestic livestock, wild boar, and monkeys. They also have a reputation as a man-eater.
Most crocodilians lay their eggs in holes in sand banks where the sun will incubate them or in mounds they build out of vegetation and mud, which act as compost piles and produce heat to incubate the eggs. Most crocodilian females are extraordinary parents. After laying their eggs they stay close by to guard the nest against predators. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the young start chirping, which signals the female to dig them up. Gently she takes each one in her dangerously toothy mouth and transports them safely to the water. The young stay close to and are guarded by the female for up to two years.
Just as the eggs and young of the crocodilians are under impressive, toothy watchcare, more so are those who serve Christ under His mighty watchcare. “Those who follow Christ are ever safe under His watchcare. Angels that excel in strength are sent from Heaven to protect them. The wicked one cannot break through the guard which God has stationed about His people.” The Great Controversy, 517. “How graciously and tenderly our heavenly Father deals with His children! He preserves them from a thousand dangers to them unseen and guards them from the subtle arts of Satan, lest they should be destroyed.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 373.
David Arbour writes from his home in DeQueen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.