Apparently it’s a good day for Crocodilians, LiveScience heralding the discovery of an extinct crocodile in Oregon and the news of American Crocodiles being taken off the endangered species list. The extinct crocodile, belonging to the genus Thalattosuchia, is the oldest ever recovered in Oregon and belongs to a group that seem to show a transition from being semi-aquatic to fully-aquatic, although I have yet to see any pictures of the actual skeleton myself. Overall the article was a bit light on substance, but if your interest in big extinct crocodilians has been stoked, check out this post at Tetrapod Zoology.
As for the other story, when I was young I remember alligators being endangered, but now their population (thanks to lots of canals and waterways connecting the suburbs) their populations have exploded, something brining them too close for comfort with people;
As I recall, the American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) was in even more dire straits, but as of yesterday they have been taken off the endangered species list as their current population in America has reached over 2,000 (up from about 300 in the 1970’s). Why the population increase? Well, other than protection they received facilities like nuclear power plants significantly warmed up the water in certain areas, making such habitats more welcoming to the crocodiles. This phenomenon is actually readily observable in my own state as well, being that if you seine net in a bay near a nuclear power plant you will catch some tropical species that seem like they’d be more at home on a coral reef than at the Jersey Shore. What I’m curious about, however, is the intersection between alligators and the more aggressive crocodiles as croc numbers go up, as well as interactions with people. The wikipedia entry for the American Crocodile features a photo of a croc at Sanibel Island, Florida, the same place that had to change their alligator size-limit policy after a rash of attacks occurred a few years ago. Either way, you now have two species of related large reptilian predators living in the same habitat, one far more aggressive than the other; studying their interactions could prove to be very illuminating, and I would do it myself if I only lived in Florida.