Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crocodile: "Is it time for my dental check-up?"

This crocodile was lurking in the underbrush on the banks of the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. His color matches the mud bank quite well, although he is certainly not as camoflauged on the river bank as he is when he is floating just under the surface of the water.

This close-up of the crocodile's head demonstrates how tour operators can take tourists in boats on river cruises to view the wildlife up close in their natural habitat. It is similar to the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney World or Disneyland, except the animals are real, of course, and the tour guides do not have a microphone and do not give a narrative of corny jokes and puns.

Four of the 23 species of crocodiles are found in the Americas, and two of those four are native to Costa Rica -- the American crocodile and the caiman. This is an American crocodile, which can reach 7 meters (21.5 feet) in length. Some crocodiles can live more than 60 years in the wild. (I will post more crocodile and caiman photos in the future.)

This crocodile allowed us to get so close I could zoom in on his head. You can enlarge the photo to check his teeth. Is it time for his dental check up? Costa Rica has very good medical and dental care, and there is a growing trend of people from the USA coming to Costa Rica for medical or dental procedures that are not covered by insurance at home. The savings can more than pay for a vacation while recuperating.

Crocodiles don't go the dentist of course. They can get their teeth cleaned by one species of bird that picks insects off them and can even clean their teeth without being eaten like all the other types of birds that the crocodiles encounter. This remarkable cooperation between species is something biologists would call "mutualism."

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