Do Crocodiles Shed Their Skin? (Scutes?)

Unlike snakes, crocodiles don’t shed their entire skin. Instead, they shed one scale at a time, slowly during their life. Crocodiles need their scales for protection and shed frequently.

They aren’t like other reptiles, like snakes, that shed their skin all at once.

Why Do Crocodiles Shed?

Crocodiles shed as they grow. They shed as their bodies grow, so their scales mature with them. Crocodiles also shed as a form of survival and protection.

The sun’s harmful rays can still hurt a crocodile’s scales and skin. While crocodiles are apex predators, they sometimes have fierce battles.

Their prey can scratch, bite, and kick their scales, causing damage. Their scales are tough and act like armor, protecting them from animals. 

Technically, crocodiles shed scutes, not scales. Scutes are hardened skin patches that resemble scales.

How Big Do Crocodiles Get?

Crocodiles are large animals. They are even larger than American alligators.

The size of a crocodile depends on what type of crocodile they are. For example, saltwater crocodiles can weigh up to 2,300 pounds and measure 23 feet long.

However, the New Guinea crocodile reaches less than half of a saltwater crocodile. Male New Guinea crocodiles are about 9.84 to 11.48 feet long and can weigh up to 440 pounds. They are one of the smaller crocodile species.

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Does It Hurt When Crocodiles Shed?

Photo: Wade Tregaskis / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

It doesn’t hurt when a crocodile sheds. However, it does feel itchy and uncomfortable.

It’s not uncommon to find a crocodile rubbing hard against bark or other rough surfaces to help get rid of old scutes.

Crocodiles Shedding Tears

You have probably heard the phrase ‘crocodile tears’ at least once in your life. But do crocodiles shed tears? Crocodiles shed tears, but not because of emotions.

Their tears are packed with proteins and minerals. Tears keep a crocodile’s eyes clean and free from debris, which is important since they spend time in both water and on land.

Although rare, some crocodiles shed tears while they eat because of facial nerve damage. However, even without damage, crocodiles shed tears to wet their eyes if they’ve been out of the water for too long.

This wetness provides an extra layer of protection.

The Toughness Of Crocodile Skin

Crocodile skin is tough, but also sensitive. They have bone-like scales.

Their skin is durable, but also has a series of small, pigmented domes. These spots are actually a collection of touch sensors.

The touch sensors are concentrated in clusters and allow the alligator to feel even the faintest touch or vibration in the water. Their touch senses are more sensitive than human fingertips.

The Uses Of Crocodile Skin

Crocodile skin has been used for years as cloth and other supplies. Crocodile skin is very common in high-end fashion.

You can find crocodile skin handbags, wallets, shoes, and furniture. Crocodile leather is sometimes tanned, which gives it a unique look.

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The most common crocodile species used for their crocodile skin are freshwater, Nile, caiman, and saltwater crocodiles.

Crocodile leather is soft, but not waterproof. However, it’s extremely durable, lasting decades.

Types Of Crocodiles

There are 24 recognized crocodile species.

Listed below are some of the most interesting crocodile species and more information about each.

Nile Crocodiles

Nile crocodiles are native to the Nile River. They are aggressive and can grow up to 20 feet long. They are very fast and can be found in over 20 countries in Africa. 

They have short legs and muscular tails. Nile crocodiles mainly eat fish, but they sometimes also consume larger prey like zebras, hippos, pangolins, and migrating wildebeest. They live 45 years in the wild, but 80 years in captivity.

Saltwater Crocodiles

Saltwater crocodiles, as their name suggests, live in saltwater environments. They are thick and the largest reptile in the world.

Saltwater crocodiles have 5-inch long strong teeth. They eat a lot of fish but prefer large prey. Saltwater crocodiles are great at sneak attacks and can hold their breath underwater for long periods of time.

American Crocodiles

American crocodiles live amongst American alligators in Florida. They are shy and common throughout the Caribbean.

American crocodiles are thinner than alligators but are often confused with each other. American crocodiles have narrow tapered snouts and the fourth tooth on their lower jaw is exposed when they close their mouth.

West African Dwarf Crocodiles

West African dwarf crocodiles are small but tough. They live in heavily dense forests and marshes in western Africa. They hunt at night and use their small size, speed, and sharp teeth to attack prey.

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At night, they blend into the water with their thick and dark scales. West African dwarf crocodiles are about 5 feet long and weigh 40 to 70 pounds. They have an average lifespan of 50 to 100 years.

Marsh Crocodiles

Marsh crocodiles are also known as mugger crocodiles. They live in most of India, except for a small part in the north.

They live in freshwater lakes and village ponds. Marsh crocodiles sometimes also live in coastal saltwater lagoons.

They make burrows on land and don’t migrate seasonally, living in the same area for years. They can also weigh up to 1,541 pounds and measure 16.40 feet long.

To Conclude

Overall, crocodiles shed their skin as they grow. Their skin is tough but delicate. It protects them from sun damage and animal attacks.

Unlike other reptiles though, crocodiles shed one scute at a time, instead of molting their entire bodies.

Nixza Gonzalez

Nixza is a highly experienced content writer with over five years of expertise in crafting expert blogs and digital content on the subject of animals. In addition to her writing skills, Nixza possesses a deep understanding of animal behavior and husbandry, honed through hands-on experience caring for her own pets and through her passion for gardening. When not working, Nixza can often be found spending quality time with her beloved animals, furthering her knowledge and deepening her connection to the natural world.

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