The American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, is one of 4 species of New World crocodile and the most widespread in range. It occurs from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico through Central America and in South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also breeds in Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispania. There is also a remnant population in Florida. Their habitat consists largely of freshwater or brackish coastal habitats and mangrove swamps.
The American Crocodile grows to a maximum length of 19.6 feet. Like all crocodiles, it is a quadruped, with four short, splayed legs, a long, powerful tail, a scaly hide with rows of ossified scales running down its back and tail, and mighty jaws. It has eyelid-like membranes to protect its eyes. It also produces tears to help cleanse the eyes. The nostrils, eyes, and ears are situated on top of its head, so the rest of the body can remain concealed underwater. Their coloration is also a camouflage for them.
American Crocodiles normally crawl along on their belly, but can also walk on it feet. Smaller specimens can gallop, and even larger ones are capable of short bursts of speed. They are very fast swimmers. They have a four-chambered heart, which is efficient for oxygenating their blood. Normally, they dive for only a few minutes, but can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes if threatened, and if they remain inactive, they can hold their breath for up to 2 hours.
These reptiles can survive for long periods without eating due to their metabolic rate, though when they do eat they can consume up to half their body weight at a time. Due to hunting, loss of habitat, and commercial farming, the American Crocodile is endangered in part of its range.