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Learn all about crocodilians at the Academy of Natural Sciences

New exhibit in Philly includes live crocodilians

By Brian Bingaman,, @brianbingaman on Twitter

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Crocodilian reptiles have thrived for millions of years thanks to brute strength, keen senses and murderous instincts.

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University President and CEO Scott Cooper described the newly-opened “Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World” as “fun and engaging,” and an exploration of the crocodile, alligator and caiman’s “evolutionary history, biology and behavior, as well as their precarious relationship to people” and their “complex social lives.”

Oh, and there are also nearly a dozen live crocs basking in habitats with flowing water, foliage, mood lighting and other features. Among the live animals are the Siamese crocodile, baby American alligators, a west African dwarf crocodile, and a broad-snouted caiman — a smaller type of alligator native to Central and South America.

On view through May 6, the “Crocs” exhibit was created by Peeling Productions at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Union County, Pa., and features croc models — including one of the memorably fearsome 18-foot-long Gomek — interactive activities and informative videos.

Can you tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles? If not, you will.

What about those occasional reports of attacks on humans? Gomek, a saltwater crocodile that was caught in New Guinea in the 1960s and later exhibited in America, was said to be a man-eater. Scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences say that wasn’t true, and later Gomek became a symbol for crocodile conservation in the U.S. and Australia. The exhibit says attacks are rare, and can be explained by these causes:

1 Problem animals that need to be removed.

2 Humans not practicing croc safety. Mother crocs are “extremely protective of their young,” Cooper noted. They’re also opportunistic stealth hunters that don’t chase after their prey, but just assume a meal is coming their way. Most crocs are wary of humans, and will bite if startled.

3 Destruction and pollution of croc habitats that need to be addressed by creating barriers between human and croc habitats or to dig wells so they can access fresh water. The American alligator was declared endangered in 1967, but has since recovered. Seven species of crocs in the world that are considered endangered.

With “Crunch Capacity” you can test your strength against the mighty bite force of a croc, while a video demonstrates how researchers measure the bites of real crocs.

Crocs coexisted with dinosaurs; where were they on the food chain? Deinosuchus, an extinct species, may have preyed on dinosaurs. Use an interactive virtual field notebook to assemble ancient croc species, from galloping land predators and jumping insect eaters to pug-nosed herbivores and dolphin-like pelagic hunters. And wait till you see the 13 million-year-old jaws of a massive fish-eating crocodylomorph.

Crocs have their own language through sound, touch, smell and body posture. Learn to speak “croc” with an audio station of grunts, hisses and an American alligator mating growl that sounds more like a threat than a bedroom purr.

Perhaps the most interesting interactive part of “Crocs” is a face-to-face one. “Meet the Keeper” at 11:45 a.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the exhibit’s run.

The Presidents Day weekend of Feb. 17-19 is a special “Crocs” Carnivore Capades weekend, full of activities like live animal shows, crafts, animals and specimens from the academy’s collection.