The feeding ecology of yearling, juvenile and sub-adult Nile crocodiles, Crocodylus niloticus, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Thesis (MSc(Conservation Ecology and Entomology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
The stomachs of 286 crocodiles (17 cm to 166 cm snout to vent length) were lavaged over a two year period. Crocodylus niloticus has a similar ontogenetic shift in diet to that of other crocodilians. Yearlings predated primarily on aquatic insecta and arachnida, as crocodile size increased (juveniles) the diet became more diverse including crustacea, amphibia and fish. The largest size class (sub-adults) consumed primarily fish. Yearlings fed consistently throughout the year, however a higher proportion of empty stomachs occurred within the juvenile and sub-adult size classes during the winter months. A captive experiment with wild caught crocodiles (0.7 kg - 20 kg) indicated a decrease in satiation rate (maximum mass of food eaten as a percentage of crocodile body mass) from 11.3 % to 6.5 % with an increase in crocodile size. Wild yearlings consumed 0.48 % of their body mass in prey per day, and juveniles, 0.23 %. The wild food conversion rates of natural prey were low, 32 % and 40 % for yearlings and juveniles respectively. This was possibly due to a high percentage of indigestible (chitinous) invertebrate mass in the diet. The percentage of stomach stone mass to crocodile body mass increased with crocodile size. Seven species of nematodes were found within the stomachs, four of which represent new geographic records.