How long do they live? Researchers are not certain. An animal collected by the Lincoln Park Zoo in 1940 passed away in 2010, which made him at least 70 years old. Of course, there’s no way to know how old the West African dwarf crocodile was when he was originally acquired [1]. It’s currently not possibly to know the age of a crocodile unless you know when it hatched. Researchers have no idea how long this species can live, but it is likely they can live to 100 years old and possibly longer [2].

Where are they found? West African dwarf crocodiles are found in the swamps, streams, and forests of West Africa [2]. See figure 1.

Figure 1. Here’s where you can find West African dwarf crocodiles.

What do they eat? Crabs, fish, insects, amphibians, and pretty much anything that moves and looks tasty [2].

What do they look like? If you’re new to this website then you won’t yet understand my fascination with all things crocodile and alligator, so welcome to the Thunderdome. These little crocodiles rank right up there with kittens on the cute scale. Dwarf crocodiles reach a maximum length of 6.3 feet and they have a more blunted snout than Nile or Saltwater crocodiles. See figures 2, 3, and 4.

Figure 2. West African dwarf crocodile.
Figure 3. Those giant eyes!
Figure 4. A juvenile dwarf crocodile.

How do they reproduce? Males and females reach sexual maturity between 5 to 6 years old. Females lay from 5 to 15 eggs and she will protect and care for her eggs and her young [3]. That 70 year old crocodile mentioned at the beginning fathered young when he was 67 years old and there’s no evidence of reproductive senescence in this species.

How do scientists know how old they are? They have to know when a crocodile hatched to know a precise age.

So what are we lacking? Could this be a species that exhibits negligible senescence? There is mitochondrial genome information available on the NCBI, but no nuclear genome information is uploaded. There’s still a desperate need to be able to identify an animal’s age using non invasive methods.

Conservation status: The IUCN lists West African dwarf crocodiles as Vulnerable. This is mainly due to habitat destruction by humans.

  1. AnAge.com. AnAge entry for Osteolaemus tetraspis. Accessed 3/15/2017. http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Osteolaemus_tetraspis
  2. Minnesota Zoo. West African Dwarf Crocodile. Accessed 3/15/2017. http://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/west-african-dwarf-crocodile/
  3. Woodland Park Zoo. Western African Dwarf Crocodile. Accessed 3/15/2017. https://www.zoo.org/page.aspx?pid=2129#.WMloe_nyvgl