Consumption of large mammals by Crocodylus moreletii: Field observations of necrophagy and interspecific kleptoparasitism

Steven G. Platt, Thomas R. Rainwater, Scott Snider, Anthony Garel, Todd A. Anderson, Scott T. Mcmurry

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17 Scopus citations


The consumption of large (>15 kg) mammals by Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) is poorly documented. We present field observations of necrophagy and interspecific kleptoparasitism (defined as the stealing of food from an individual by another individual) involving the consumption of domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) carcasses, respectively, by Morelet's crocodile in Belize. Our single observation of kleptoparasitism occurred when an adult crocodile fed upon and attempted to hijack a tapir killed by a jaguar (Panthera onca). Crocodiles gained access to the interior of carcasses by tearing through the abdominal wall (tapir) or expanding an opening made by feeding vultures (cattle); feeding then progressed to the limbs, neck, and head. Crocodiles quickly located and congregated at cattle carcasses, possibly attracted by large flocks of feeding vultures. Feeding aggregations were composed solely of adult crocodiles; juveniles and subadults were probably excluded by the presence of larger, dominant individuals. Crocodiles required 72 to 96 h to consume cattle carcasses. While our observation of kleptoparasitism is among the few yet reported for any crocodilian, we speculate that this foraging strategy is more widespread and has likely been overlooked by previous investigators, owing to the difficulty of observing feeding behavior in the wild. Collectively our observations suggest that large mammals represent an important, albeit rare and hitherto overlooked, food resource for adult C. moreletii in Belize.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-317
Number of pages8
JournalSouthwestern Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


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