The role of predation in shaping crocodilian natural history

Ruchira Somaweera*, Matthew Brien, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although adult crocodilians have few predators (mostly humans and other crocodilians), hatchlings and eggs are killed and consumed by a diverse array of invertebrates, fishes, anurans, reptiles, birds, and mammals. We review published literature to evaluate the incidence of predation in crocodilian populations, and the implications of that mortality for crocodilian life-history evolution. Presumably because predation is size-dependent, small-bodied crocodilian taxa appear to be more vulnerable to predation (across a range of life stages) than are larger-bodied species. Several features of crocodilian biology likely reflect adaptations to reducing vulnerability to predation. For example, the threat of predation may have influenced the evolution of traits such as nest-site selection, maternal care of eggs and hatchlings, crèche behavior in hatchlings, and cryptic coloration and patterning. Even for such large and superficially invulnerable taxa such as crocodilians, the avoidance of predation appears to have been a significant selective force on behavior, morphology, and ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-51
Number of pages29
JournalHerpetological Monographs
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • alligator
  • caiman
  • crocodile
  • ontogeny
  • vulnerability

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