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How big was the world's oldest crocodile?

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Crocodiles are cold-blooded reptiles that live mainly in wetland areas. With large jaws, sharp claws and scaly skin, an alligator can be a terrifying sight. Their speed, strength and general bloodlust continue to mesmerize people all over the world. As such ferocious predators, crocodiles have managed to survive and make a name for themselves over the past few million years. As an ancient species, let's find out how old the world's oldest surviving crocodile is.

all about crocodiles

deadliest animals in america
The oldest crocodile on record is 85-year-old Muja.


Alligators are reptiles that are members of the crocodile family, which includes American alligators, alligators, crocodiles, and caimans. The American alligator ( Alligator mississippiensis ) is the largest reptile in North America and lives in the wetlands of the southeastern states. Alligators are a common sight for locals and tourists alike when traveling in Florida or Louisiana. The Chinese alligator can be found in the Yangtze River Basin in China.

Unlike many other animal species on Earth, alligators have undergone little evolutionary change. As a prehistoric species, their ancestors first evolved more than 245 million years ago, making them the reptiles most closely related to the dinosaurs. The modern crocodile family itself emerged during the late Cretaceous period of dinosaur dominance. Unlike the dinosaurs, however, alligators managed to avoid extinction more than 65 million years ago.

As top predators, adult crocodiles feed on fish, turtles, snakes and other small mammals, while juveniles eat insects, amphibians and smaller fish. Although they are carnivores, they are not averse to eating fruit, and a hungry crocodile will eat anything it can bite into.

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A crocodile has about 70 to 80 teeth in its jaw during its lifetime, but, due to the intense crushing force of the jaw, they eventually break or tear. Fortunately, they are able to regrow their teeth, and on average, crocodiles lose 3,000 or more teeth in their lifetime. Alligators have the strongest bite force on Earth, with a measured bite force of approximately 2125 pounds per square inch.

How long can a crocodile live?

Animals Endemic to North America: American Alligator
The typical lifespan of an alligator is 30-50 years.

©iStock.com/Bradley Proxmire

Unlike many other animals on this planet, crocodiles and alligators have no lifespan limit. Instead, they continue to live and grow unless disturbed by their environment due to lack of food, disease, accident, or other large predators. Crocodiles do not age biologically, but simply continue to grow larger. Negligible senescence is the term for these organisms that show no signs of biological aging. It's even been coined "biological immortality." Alligators and crocodiles aren't the only vertebrates that exhibit "biological immortality," flounder, Rougheye grouper, and even some tortoises have been observed to be biologically immortal.

While crocodiles don't die of old age, they don't live forever either. The average lifespan of a wild American alligator is between 30 and 50 years, while the average lifespan of a Chinese alligator in the wild is also around 50 years old. As they grow older, crocodiles find it harder to hunt because of their large size and start to need more food to survive. After a certain point, they are no longer able to provide themselves with enough food to maintain their metabolism, and then starve to death.

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The world's longest-lived crocodile

The world's oldest crocodile is at least 85 years old and is named Muja.

Muja is an American alligator at the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia. Although his exact year of incubation is not known, Muja first came to Belgrade Zoo in 1937, when he was two years old. In 2018, Guinness World Records recorded Muja as "the longest-lived captive alligator in existence," stating that "he was at least 80 years and 252 days old as of May 22, 2018." This means that by 2021, Muja will be at least 85 years old!

Muja has an interesting past. During World War II, the bombing of Belgrade destroyed much of the zoo where he lived, but Muja managed to survive and continue to grow old.

With the help of consistent care and food, Muja has remained healthy. His only health problem came in 2012 when he developed gangrene. However, he successfully underwent amputation of his right front paw and has since made a full recovery. The Muja is the last remaining animal from the zoo's earliest days and even survived another bombing in 1999. His resilience makes him a favorite with zoo visitors.

Are crocodiles dangerous?

Crocodile with mouth open looking at camera
Alligators are attracted to movement and movement.

© iStock.com/tobiasfrei

Alligators are not particularly dangerous, and while alligator attacks are rare, they still pose a threat to humans. While alligators don't usually consider people as food, they are attracted to movement. Most will not attack humans unless you are up close or close to their territory. According to the Florida Museum's International Shark Attack Archive, about 4 percent of alligator attacks on humans in the U.S. result in fatalities, most of them in Florida.

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To be safe, never feed alligators, keep a safe distance or avoid areas where they inhabit, keep pets away from water sources, and only swim in designated areas during the day.

Are alligators threatened?

Today, the American alligator is no longer considered an endangered species but a model of conservation success. The American alligator was once threatened with extinction due to mass crocodile hunting that lasted from the 1800s until the mid-1900s. Crocodiles are primarily hunted for their hide, which is used to make leather, and poached for their meat. This deadly poaching combined with loss of natural habitat has driven them to the brink of extinction.

In 1967, crocodiles were officially listed as an endangered species. Thanks to state and federal conservation efforts, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 came into force and banned the continued hunting of alligators. As a result of these efforts, crocodile populations have recovered and there are close to one million crocodiles in the wild.


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More from AZ Animals

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Animal with the strongest bite - American alligator
American alligators' teeth and jaws change significantly as they develop and mature.

© RICifoto/Shutterstock.com

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Volia Nikaci is a freelance writer and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding and marketing. She has a background in broadcast journalism and political science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, visiting used bookstores, and hanging out with her significant other.

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