Like all crocodiles, the American Crocodile has four short, splayed legs; a long, powerful tail; a scaly hide with rows of ossified scutes running down its back and tail; and mighty jaws. It has nictitating membranes to protect its eyes, and despite the myths, it it can cleanse its eyes with tears.
The nostrils, eyes, and ears are situated on the top of its head, so the rest of the body can remain concealed underwater. Cryptic coloration also helps them prey on food.
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American crocodiles normally crawl along on their belly, but they can also "high walk." Smaller specimens can gallop, and even larger crocodiles are capable of surprising bursts of speed. They can swim equally fast by moving their body and tail in a sinuous fashion, but they cannot sustain this form of movement for an extended period.
Crocodiles have a four-chambered heart like birds, which is especially efficient at oxygenating their blood. American crocodiles normally submerge for only a couple of minutes, but can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes if threatened. As long as they remain inactive, they can hold their breath for up to 2 hours underwater. They have an ectothermic metabolism, so they can persist for great periods between meals. When they do eat, the American crocodile can eat up to half their body weight at a time.
Due to hide hunting, pollution, loss of mangrove habitat, and removal of adults for commercial farming, the American crocodile is endangered in parts of its range.
This species can be dangerous to humans–--as attacks in areas such as Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala are not uncommon. These attacks rarely make international news, and therefore, this species is not as well-documented a man-eater as its Nile or Saltwater relatives.