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Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii), also called the Belize Crocodile or the Mexican Crocodile, is found only in the eastern freshwater marshes, rivers, and lakes of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. Up until the 1920s it was often misidentified as the Cuban Crocodile or American Crocodile. It is named for French naturalist P.M.A. Morelet, who described it in 1850.

Morelet's Crocodile is generally darker in color than the American Crocodile, and has a shorter and broader head. Males have brownish-gray skins with black bands, while females tend to have more yellowish skins. Juveniles of both sexes are brighter yellow with black spots and bands, but the females don't get as dark as the males. They are on the smaller side, when compared with other crocodile species. Adults average about 9.8 feet (3 meters) and weigh approximately 128 pounds (58 kg). They have 66 or 68 teeth when fully grown.

The diet of Morelet's Crocodiles varies depending on their specific habitat and the availability of prey, but in general they eat small mammals, reptiles (including young Morelet's Crocodiles) and birds when fully grown. Juveniles and hatchlings will feed on prey more size-appropriate, like fish and insects. Morelet's Crocodiles prefer habitats in which the juveniles have some cover from larger predators in reeds, grasses or forests, but they have been spotted in unusual places. Newspaper outlets in Mexico have reported sightings of Morelet's Crocodiles in the Rio Grande, which is further north than they are usually found. They've also been seen in the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa.

The breeding season of Morelet's Crocodiles occurs between April and June, when gravid females will construct nests out of rotting vegetation. The nests can be as tall as 3 feet (1 meter) and 9.8 feet (3 meters) across. Females will lay about 20 to 45 eggs in a clutch, which will incubate for 80 days. Though cannibalism has been observed in this species, Morelet's Crocodiles do not eat their own young, and both parents of the hatchlings act as protectors to allow them to gain in size and weight until they are juveniles.

Though Morelet's Crocodile is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, it was extirpated from some parts of Mexico during the 1950s. During this time, the crocodiles' skin was in such high demand that as many as 1,000 skins could be sold at just one market in one day. It is still being hunted in some areas. Human development is also eating up large parts of the range of Morelet's Crocodile, as well as exposure to environmental contaminants such as pesticides.

Source for the images used in this post.