Scientists have found in Florida several Nile crocodiles, which are also referred as “man-eating” animals that are naturally from the Sub-Saharan Africa. The team tested some captured crocodiles and matched their DNA with the African species.
The dangerous animals were captured between 2000 and 2014. They offered researchers from the University of Florida (UF) time to compare their DNA to other local species and track their growing mechanism.
After the analysis, the team confirmed that the animals are linked to native populations in South Africa and added that the species cannot only survive in Florida, but they can also thrive in the area.
DNA analysis showed that the tree similar-sized Nile crocodiles were not related to any other animal in the area and that a juvenile one grew nearly 28 percent faster than the wild crocodiles from some parts of their native range, the UF stated in a press release.
“The odds that the few of us who study Florida reptiles have found all of the Nile crocs out there is probably unlikely,” said Kenneth Krysko, co-author of the study published in the Journal of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.
The species can grow up to 18 feet long in their natural habitat and could weigh as much as a small car. They normally eat a large variety of prey. In Florida, they can eat birds, fish, and mammals such as the state’s native crocodile and alligator.
In addition, between 2010 and 2014, the Nile crocodiles have been responsible for nearly 500 attacks on people, 123 of which ended up in fatalities due to the magnitude of the injuries.
Currently, there is no evidence of an established population in the state, this is why research recommends a scientific risk assessment to evaluate the potential that these animals have to spread across the state.
“We know that they can survive in the Florida wilderness for numerous years, we know that they grow quickly here and we know their behavior in their native range, and there is no reason to suggest that would change here in Florida,” said Krysko.
According to the team, Florida’s Atlantic coast and the entire Gulf of Mexico coastline provide a favorable climate for Nile crocodiles that could offer an ideal place to keep growing and breeding.
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There is not conclusive evidence about how this wild animal could have reached another continent, but researchers assured that this could have happened through Florida’s exotic pet trade. Over the last decade these animals have been brought from South Africa and Madagascar for display at places such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom and to supply the pet trade.
Florida’s weather is one of the reasons the state currently has the largest number of invasive species, from the also dangerous Burmese python to the Cuban tree frog. Krysko hopes that people will open their eyes to the problem of invasive species in the state.
Source: University of Florida