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Today, we’re on a mission to solve a captivating conundrum that has puzzled many: Are crocodiles actually lizards?
As we navigate the twists and turns of taxonomic classifications, we promise to not only arm you with the accurate information you seek but also make it a rip-roaring good time!
So, gather your adventurous spirit, and let’s uncover whether crocodiles are merely scaly siblings of lizards or if their connection is more complex than what’s visible on the surface.
Are Crocodiles Considered Lizards?
No, crocodiles are not lizards. Although crocodiles and lizards have similar body shapes and they belong to the same class (Reptilia), they are not closely related. Together with alligators, caymans, and gharials, crocodiles are part of the Crocodilian order. Lizards, on the other side, are members of the order Squamata.
As a matter of fact, crocodiles are more related to birds than they are to reptiles.
This surprising relationship between crocodiles and birds may seem strange, but it is due to their shared ancestry. Both crocodiles and birds are archosaurs, a group of diapsid reptiles that evolved around 250 million years ago.
This evolutionary lineage makes them closer relatives to each other than either group is to lizards. Let’s now closely look at crocodiles and lizards and see what some of the main differences are.
What Are Lizards?
With over 6,000 different species around the world, you’ve probably seen quite a few of them – like geckos, Gila monsters, iguanas, chameleons, and monitor lizards, just to name a few.
Most lizards have four legs and scurry around on all fours, but some unique species actually have no legs and look more like snakes. Lizards are mostly daytime adventurers, which means they’re active during the day.
Now, when it comes to size, there’s quite a range among different species. From tiny few-inch chameleons to giant deadly lizards Komodo dragons that can reach up to 10 feet in length.
Lizards are incredibly adaptable and can be found in all sorts of environments. Whether it’s a desert, rainforest, or your very own backyard, chances are there’s a lizard nearby.
Interestingly, some lizards have the ability to regrow their tails. This unique adaptation is called autotomy, and it serves as a defense mechanism against predators. When a lizard drops its tail, the detached tail will continue to wriggle, distracting the predator while the lizard makes a getaway.
When it comes to food, most lizards prefer a meaty diet. They’re clever hunters, often using a sit-and-wait tactic to catch their prey. This involves blending in with their surroundings, waiting patiently, and then striking with the element of surprise. They’ll munch on ants, spiders, termites, cicadas, and even some mammals.
And how do these critters make more lizards? Well, most of them lay eggs, but about 10% of lizard species actually give birth to live young.
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What Are Crocodiles?
Crocodiles are reptiles that live semi-aquatic lifestyles, meaning they spend time both in water and on land. You can find them across Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, hanging out in rivers, lakes, wetlands, and even saltwater.
There are 13 different species of crocodiles, and they come in all shapes and sizes, but the largest of them all is the saltwater crocodile. Adult saltwater crocs can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh around 1,000 pounds. Now that’s a big reptile!
Being carnivorous, crocodiles love to chow down on other animals. Their diet varies based on their age and location, but they’ll usually feast on fish, birds, other reptiles, and mammals.
Interestingly, crocodiles are the only solitary reptiles. Although they don’t form groups, they generally coexist peacefully when sharing the same habitat.
However, saltwater crocodiles are the exception to this rule. These bad boys can be highly territorial and aggressive, especially as adults.
Crocodiles are also quite chatty! Depending on the species and situation, they can communicate using over 20 different vocalizations. They’ll hiss, growl, and even make a noise called a “jaw pop” to communicate with one another.
These predatory reptiles are also known for their incredible ambush-hunting skills. They’ll wait patiently in the water, often with just their eyes and nostrils above the surface, before lunging at their prey with lightning speed. And with their powerful jaws, they can deliver one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom.
Differences Between Lizards and Crocodiles
Besides coming from a different order, there are other main differences between the two:
Size and head: Lizards are typically smaller, with petite heads, whereas crocodiles are large predators sporting sizable heads.
Habitat: Lizards dwell on the ground, in trees, or on rocks, in contrast to crocodiles, which mostly inhabit water.
Body structure: Lizards feature elongated bodies and four limbs, as opposed to crocodiles, which possess sturdy, flattened body and short, strong legs.
Skin texture: Lizards exhibit dry, scaly skin, whereas crocodiles display thick, bumpy skin reinforced with osteoderms.
Diet: Lizards’ diets range from carnivorous to omnivorous or herbivorous, while crocodiles maintain a purely carnivorous diet.
Teeth: Lizards possess small, sharp teeth, in contrast to crocodiles, which have large, conical teeth and a thecodont (socket-tooth) structure.
Heart structure: Lizards, like most reptiles, have a three-chambered heart, whereas crocodiles boast a four-chambered heart.
Gizzards: Lizards lack gizzards, which are only found in crocodilians.
Skull structure: Crocodiles have mandibular fenestrae (skull openings in front of the eye socket), a feature absent in lizards.
Tail regrowth: Lizards can typically detach and regrow their tails, a capability crocodiles do not possess.
Ears: Lizards have external ears, in contrast to crocodiles, which have internal ears and no external structures.
Smell: Crocodiles rely on their nostrils for smelling, while lizards gather scents using their tongue.
Parental care: Crocodiles construct nests and tend to their offspring, but only a few lizard species offer care to their hatchlings.
Social behavior: Lizards generally lead solitary lives, while crocodiles tend to coexist in groups and exhibit varying degrees of territorial behavior.
Communication: Lizards employ body language and color changes for communication, whereas crocodiles utilize a broader range of vocalizations.
Lifespan: Lizards generally have shorter lifespans, ranging from a few years to a couple of decades. Crocodiles, however, can live for several decades, with some species living over 70 years.
The resemblance of lizards and crocodiles at first glance is indeed present. Besides walking in a similar fashion, crocodiles and lizards also have certain physical similarities.
Nonetheless, crocodiles and lizards are not closely related at all. Although both creatures belong to the reptile class, they come from distinct orders. Crocodiles are part of the Crocodilian order, whereas lizards fall under the Squamata order.