Blog: Carlita the Croc

Crocs and Climate Change

Why would a crocodile even care about climate change?

I’m glad you asked!

We crocodiles are ectothermic animals.  That means we do not internally regulate body temperature, but rely on outside temperatures to warm up or cool off.  We sit in the sun or in a warm spot to warm up and “charge our engines,” so we can move, digest, run basic physiological functions, etc.  If we get too warm, we can move to cooler spots – water, shade, burrows – to lower our body temperature.

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Warming up in the hot spot!

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Coolin’ off in the water.

So, you can see my problem.  Along with other changes, one of the biggest concerns about climate change is rising temperatures.  One or two degrees average worldwide can translate to five or ten degrees in some regional locations.  That can be a big difference for my internal body temperature, making me overheat and leaving me without places to cool off quickly enough. 

The other thing is that it affects my babies.  And by “babies,” I mean eggs.  Crocodiles and alligators lay eggs in nest mounds.  Whether the eggs hatch as males or females is not determined by genetics, but rather by the temperature of the nest.  This is called Temperature Dependent Sex Determination.  All of the eggs start out as female.  However, the temperature of the nest varies and certain temperature parameters (different for each species of crocodilian) will spur hormones to make the crocodile embryo male.  Pretty interesting way to sort that out, huh?

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Alligator hatchling on nest.

But again, climate change threatens to foil this fascinating way of sorting males and female.  You see, if the temperature is outside of that threshold, too cold, or ahem, too warm…the eggs all remain female. 

I know, I know…all females, all the time sounds awesome.  After all, according to Queen Bey “Who Run the World?”  But unfortunately, we crocodiles still reproduce sexually, so we need to have those males around to help ensure we have cute little bebe crocs running around. 

And that, folks, is the real reason climate change must be stopped.

No?  It’s not, you say?

Alright, alright…I guess I care about humans, too.  Stay tuned for how a changing climate will affect humans in my adopted home of Chicago, Illinois!

Posted: 2/11/2016 11:23:26 AM by


Carlita the Croc

I'm Carlita the Croc, here to deliver my candid views on various topics, articles, news, and stories in conservation. For the latest news follow me on Twitter, for striking photos follow me on Instagram.

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