The Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) is an African species of crocodile. It is also the smallest crocodile species in the world. Recent sampling has identified the genetically distinct populations. Some feel that the findings should elevate the subspecies to full species status.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
The Dwarf Crocodile attains an average adult length of 5 feet (1.5m) even though the maximum recorded length of this species is 6.2 feet (1.9 meters). Adults are a dark black on their backs and sides with a yellowish underbelly with patches of black. Juveniles have a lighter brown banding on their body and tails and yellow patterns on their head.
As a result of its small size and heightened vulnerability to predators, this species of crocodile has a tank like armored neck, back and tail and also has osteoderms on its belly and underbelly of its neck.
Osteolaemus has a blunt short snout, as long as it is wide, similar in fact to that of a dwarf caiman, probably a result of occupying a similar ecological niche. The dentition consists of 4 premaxillary teeth, 12 to 13 on the maxilla and 14 to 15 on the dentary bone.
Osteolaemus tetraspis has lighter colours, a more pointed, upturned snout and more body armor than Osteolaemus Osborni.
HABITAT AND RANGE
Dwarf Crocodile range tropical lowland region of sub-Saharan West Africa and West Central Africa. Such a distribution greatly overlaps with that of the slender-snouted crocodile encompassing countries as far west as Senegal. The subspecies Osteolaemus tetraspis is found mainly in the westerly reaches of this range while Osteolaemus tetraspis restricted to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rain forest.
Osteolaemus individuals reside in permanent ponds in swamps and areas of slight current of rain forest Rivers, though reports exist of dwarf crocodiles in isolated pools in the savannah, where burrows are dug to aestivate during the dry season.
ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOUR
The dwarf crocodile is a slow, timid and mainly nocturnal reptile. As with all crocodilians, it is adept predator of vertebrates, large invertebrates such as crustaceans and, when presented with the opportunity, also eats carrion. Foraging in mainly done in or near the water, though in areas with substantial ground cover, they may expand their feeding pattern to land in extensive forays, especially following rain.
The Congo Basin subspecies demonstrates seasonality in its dietary regime, feeding on fish during the wet season’s floods. When faced with the scarceness of food during the dry season, individuals turn to do so usually abide between tree roots that hang over ponds in which it lives.



REPRODUCTION
Interacting closely only in breeding season, female dwarf crocodiles build their nest mounds at the begging of wet season, which spans May and June. The nest, situated near the water, is a mound of wet, decaying vegetation that incubates the eggs due to heat generated by the decompositions of the plant material. A small number of eggs are laid, numbering about 10, though in extreme cases it can go up to 20 eggs, and they incubate in 85 to 105 days. Hatchlings measure 28 cm when emerging from the eggs. The female guards the nest during the incubation period and after the eggs hatch it watchers over the young for an unknown period of time as young can be eaten by predators.

CLASSIFICATION
Osteolaemus tetraspis is currently the only species included in the genus Osteolaemus, with two recognized subspecies
  • Osteolaemus Tetraspis
  • Osteolaemus tetraspis Osborni Congo (or Osborn’s) dwarf crocodile




BY: MATTHEW CLOUGH
(plagarized)