Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Seven
By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 16 April 2012
Up above the cabinet so high, like a reptile in the sky, this week’s specimen of the week is both solid and squishy, it’s both green but white, and it is extremely hard to get down without the help of our 6 and a half foot curator so if you want to see it, you’ll have to look carefully. But it’s well worth the effort. This week’s specimen of the week is…
**!!!The Siamese crocodile!!!**
1) Like most crocodile species, Siamese crocodiles inhabit freshwater. The only crocodile that regularly frequents salt water is the… want to guess? No? It’s the salt water crocodile. You really should have guessed.
2) This 3 m long reptile can be easily spotted as they are the only crocodilian species to sport a bony crest above each eye. No one is certain what the brow ridges are for, but the most popular theory by far (suggested by a fellow UCL staff member) is to stop water getting into their eyes when it rains. A clearly well thought out hypothesis given how much crocodiles hate water.
3) The Siamese crocodile is listed as Critically Endangered in the wild. However, whilst their wild counterparts are barely holding on by their claw tips, the captive population is booming. Unfortunately, the baby-croc-boom is not down to their epic sonnet writing skills, but because they are, sadly, extensively farmed for their skin.
4) To maintain wild populations, captive animals are frequently introduced into the wild. Genius plan, yes? Well… not when you consider that most Siamese crocodiles released into the wild are hybrid offspring of Siamese and salt water crocodiles. These species are cross-bred by crocodile farms to produce larger animals with ‘superior’ leather. So perhaps one day in the near future we will have to rename the Siamese crocodile, the ‘mongrel’ crocodile?
5) Except for their diet, which comprises amphibians, reptiles and small mammals (not often of the human variety), little else is known about their biology and habits. Sadly, we may not have a chance to find out before the pure species is lost and human meddling results in the hybrids taking over.
Come and see if you can spot our Siamese crocodile (a pure bred no less). If he eludes you, we will be happy to point him out as he is well worth a gander.