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Ancient predators in a modern world.

An exhibition exploring the complex lives of crocodilians--the group including crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials--their evolutionary history, biology, behavior, and precarious relationships with human societies is on view at New York's American Museum of Natural History.

Crocs have flourished for more than 200,000,000 years, once including a rich diversity of specialized forms from galloping land predators and jumping insect-eaters to pug-nosed herbivores and dolphin-like pelagic hunters. Modern crocodilians mostly are built for the water's edge. These stealthy aquatic predators have rugged bodies, keen senses, and incredible strength. They also lead intricate social lives: communicating with a range of pips, grunts, hisses, bellows, and subtle changes in body posture; battling over territories; engaging in lengthy courtship rituals; and providing their young with parental care.

Living crocodilians range from diminutive forest dwellers to behemoths that eat wildebeests, bison, and, occasionally, people. In a human-dominated world, the future of crocodilians depends upon our willingness to share space with these large predators.

Live creatures visitors will encounter in this exhibition are the Siamese crocodile (among the most endangered crocodilian species); the American alligator (females of this species are serious about motherhood, standing guard for two months until their babies hatch, then taking care of them for months or even years); an African dwarf crocodile (these crocs, unlike most crocodilians, do most of their hunting on land, prowling the forest at night, far from water); and an African slender-snouted crocodile (these highly aquatic crocs live in rivers and coastal waters surrounded by dense vegetation, often basking on logs overhanging water and leaping into the pool at the first sign of danger; little is known about these secretive crocodiles in the wild).

Visitors will be able to test their strength against a croc on a modified force gauge; learn how to speak "croc"; get up close to a model of Gomek, the largest crocodile ever exhibited in the Western Hemisphere after he was caught on the Fly River of Papua New Guinea in the 1960s; and test their crocodilian IQ with fun facts and croc trivia. Interactives allow visitors to ask questions of the croc and fossil specialists, including Mark Norell, exhibition curator and chair and Macaulay Curator in AMNH's Division of Paleontology.

"Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World" can be seen until Jan. 2, 2017, at AMNH.

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Title Annotation:Crocodilians
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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