Broad-Snouted Crocodile (Smallest Crocodile in the World)

The broad-snouted crocodile is also called the African dwarf crocodile, West African dwarf crocodile or bony crocodile. The scientific name of this small crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) means bony throat in Latin. The species is famed for being heavily armoured and the smallest crocodile in the world.

Largely, living on land, the broad-snouted crocodile is from the genus: Osteolaemus. Osteolaemus tetraspis and is currently the only species included in the monotypic genus Osteolaemus, with two recognized subspecies:

  • O. t. osborni (Schmidt, 1919) – Congo (or Osborn’s) dwarf crocodile
  • O. t. tetraspis Cope, 1861
Broad-Snouted Crocodile (Smallest Crocodile in the World)

Appearance of the Broad-Snouted Crocodile

Powerful long tails of the Broad-snouted crocodile are useful in swimming and springing out of holes. Back legs are longer than their front to help with speedy ambush predation. On their backs, tough scales contain scutes which are free moving bones; the four boned shield reflects its name, tetraspis which means four shields in Latin and provides a hardy means of protection from bigger crocodiles.

Typically the species of Broad-snouted crocodile grows to 5 feet 9 (1.5 m). Adult crocodiles. on average weigh 18 and 32 kg (40 and 71 lb). Largest females weigh up to 40 kg (88 lb) and the largest males weigh as much as an average man: 80 kg (180 lb). Despite their label: ‘dwarf’ crocodile the largest on record was over six feet 1 in length.

Broad-Snouted Crocodile (Smallest Crocodile in the World)

Crocodiles, like the broad-snouted crocodile have a nictitating membrane, known as a third eye lid which slides across their eyes when underwater, offering clear vision under the surface. The vertical slit like pupil allows a perfect amount of light in to the eye to see what’s happening above the surface, aiding their ambush tactics.

Distribution in the Wild

Broad-snouted crocodiles live across tropical regions of Sub-Saharan West Africa and Central Africa with the easternmost populations found in the Congo River of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their most southern habitat can be found in Northern Angola.

Broad-Snouted Crocodile Map
Broad-Snouted Crocodile Map

Fantastic Facts About the Broad-Snouted Crocodile

  • There are 27 species of crocodile.
  • Nest building begins at the end of the dry seasons as there are more fallen leaves
  • Recently research has shown that the species will even live in caves. Highly adaptable, the broad-snouted crocodiles have been found living in caves in Gabon.


Highly adaptable, dwarf crocodiles are diurnal (Wikipedia explanation) allowing them to hunt at day or night. Often dwelling in flooded forests or lagoons, these diminutive crocodiles spend much of their time on land using their long legs to traverse branches and forest roots. Despite being able to hunt during the day they spend most of the hotter hours buried in especially dug burrows where they can hide and gain strength for night hunts.

At night its vertical slit pupils can be observed becoming rounder, letting in more light so the broad-snouted crocodile can see more clearly in the dark. Using their strong tails to clear forest debris, they can uncover many kinds of small prey including insects, snails and frogs. However, research has shown fish is their favored prey when available.

Breeding Habits

During mating season at the end of the dry season males are known to fight each other to win a mate. Males and females will neck rub to show affection. Interestingly, scientists believe they choose rotting vegetation (as well as leaves) to build their nests as decomposition releases warmth and aids embryo development. The nest will have two steep sides and will be built above the water table, over 15 meters (50 feet ) from the shoreline.

A clutch of eggs will typically be 10-14 eggs. The mother will guard the nest for a typical incubation period of about 100 days.

Conservation of the Dwarf Crocodile

ICUN Status: Vulnerable
ICUN Status: Vulnerable

The ICUN has declared the Broad-snouted crocodile as vulnerable based on estimations rather than recorded data, which has been hard to collate. The vulnerable status of the broad-snouted crocodile is put down to deforestation, loss of habitat and the expansion of the bush meat trade in geographical areas near the dwarf crocodile.

However, recent research shows the species is prevalent in at least 6 national parks of Gabon and ubiquitous in the Likouala swamp forest.

Q & A About Broad-Snouted Crocodiles

What is a baby crocodile called?

A baby crocodile is called a hatchling

How old can dwarf crocodiles live?

Dwarf crocodiles can live for up to 70 years.

What are the primary predators of broad-snouted crocodiles?

Humans are the main predator of broad-snouted crocodiles for bush meat.

What class are broad-snouted crocodiles?

Broad-snouted crocodiles are in the class of Reptilia

What family are broad-snouted crocodiles in?

Broad-snouted crocodiles are in the crocodylidae family.

Conservation efforts are going ahead in Gabon to protect the species…

Broad-Snouted Crocodile (Smallest Crocodile in the World)

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