Estuarine crocodiles ride surface currents to facilitate long-distance travel

Hamish Campbell, Matthew Watts, Scott Sullivan, Mark Read, Severine Choukroun, Steve R Irwin, Craig Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


1. The estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the world’s largest living reptile. It predominately inhabits freshwater and estuarine habitats, but widespread geographic distribution throughout oceanic islands of the South‐east Pacific suggests that individuals undertake sizeable ocean voyages.

2. Here we show that adult C. porosus adopt behavioural strategies to utilise surface water currents during long‐distance travel, enabling them to move quickly and efficiently over considerable distances.

3. We used acoustic telemetry to monitor crocodile movement throughout 63 km of river, and found that when individuals engaged in a long‐distance, constant direction journey (>10 km day−1), they would only travel when current flow direction was favourable. Depth and temperature measurements from implanted transmitters showed that they remained at the water surface during travel but would dive to the river substratum or climb out on the river bank if current flow direction became unfavourable.

4. Satellite positional fixes from tagged crocodiles engaged in ocean travel were overlaid with residual surface current (RSC) estimates. The data showed a strong correlation existed between the bearing of the RSC and that of the travelling crocodile (r2 = 0·92, P < 0·0001).

5. The study demonstrates that C. porosus dramatically increase their travel potential by riding surface currents, providing an effective dispersal strategy for this species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-964
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010
Externally publishedYes


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