African Crocodiles

It’s not a question of if American crocodiles originated in Africa but whether the African crocodiles were alone when they traversed the Atlantic Ocean.

Until very recently African crocodiles were deemed to be Nile Crocodiles.

The Nile crocodile is among the largest and best known biologically of all the crocodilians. Nile crocodiles are widely distributed throughout sub-saharan Africa, and historical records indicate its range formerly extended into southern Israel and Jordan. The species was also established on the Comoros Islands, and still exists on Madagascar.

Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.
Second Edition – Edited by James Perran Ross – 1998
IUCN The World Conservation Union

Taxonomy: Pending the formal description of the newly recognised west and central African clade as a new species, this account refers to C. niloticus as previously understood.

Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus. Fergusson, R.A. (2010). Pp. 84-89 in Crocodiles. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Third Edition, ed. by S.C. Manolis and C. Stevenson. Crocodile Specialist Group: Darwin.

The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is a large crocodilian native to freshwater habitats in Africa, where it is present in 26 countries.

Due to its widespread occurrence and stable population trend, it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

It is widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, occurring mostly in the central, eastern, and southern regions of the continent, and lives in different types of aquatic environments such as lakes, rivers, swamps, and marshlands. Although capable of living in saline environments, this species is rarely found in saltwater, but occasionally inhabits deltas and brackish lakes.

It is the largest freshwater predator in Africa, and may be considered the second-largest extant reptile in the world, after the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).

Wikipedia – Nile Crocodile

Nowadays, crocodile concepts are [slowly] changing.

It’s recognised the “widespread occurrence” of the Nile Crocodile might not be quite so widespread after all.

In Guinea, the only available information on the occurrence of the West African Nile crocodile (i.e., as C. niloticus) comes from a brief effort nearly 20 years old (de Buffrenil 1993) and a summary country report that presents much supposition with no actual data (Kourouma and Faro 2007).

De Buffrenil (1993) reported secondhand anecdotal information on its occurrence in the coastal areas north of Conakry at low densities (e.g., Dubreka area), and his own survey efforts resulted in few encounters. Referring to the rarity of crocodiles in Guinea, de Buffrenil (1993) further reported that professional crocodile hunting likely ceased before the 1990’s.

More recently, Kourouma and Faro (2007) reported the presence of the species (i.e., as C. niloticus) throughout Guinea and, despite having no actual data or surveys to support their claims of presence or abundance, recognized a state of significant population decline.

Neither study reported on crocodiles in the study area, though Kourouma and Faro (2007) reported that rare sightings occurred in the Forécariah River (adjacent to the study area).

Simandou Project (Guinea) – Port Component
Crocodiles baseline report – Final Report – January 2013
Environnement Illimité inc.

And it’s recognised there are “significant differences” in “appearance and size” between different populations of Nile Crocodiles.

The Nile crocodile occurs in a large area of Africa and there are significant differences between the populations.

There are no official subspecies although at least seven have been proposed namely

C.   niloticus africanus: East African Nile crocodile
C.n. chamses:             West African Nile crocodile
C.n. corviei:             South African Nile crocodile
C.n. madagascariensis:    Malagasy Nile crocodile,
                          Malagasy alligator or
                          Croco Mada
C.n. niloticus:           Ethiopian Nile crocodile
C.n. pauciscutatus:       Kenyan Nile crocodile,
                          Kenyan alligator or
                          Kenyan caiman
C.n. suchus:              Central African Nile crocodile

Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Deon Furstenburg – January 2008
GEO WILD Consult (Pty) Ltd.

Although no subspecies are currently formally recognized, as many as seven have been proposed, mostly due to variations in appearance and size noted in various populations through Africa.

Wikipedia – Nile Crocodile

The West African Crocodile is one of these “significant differences”.

The West African crocodile, desert crocodile, or sacred crocodile (Crocodylus suchus) is a species of crocodile related to – and often confused with – the larger and more aggressive Nile crocodile (C. niloticus).

Compared to the Nile Crocodile, the West African Crocodile is smaller: Adults are typically 1.5–2.5 m (5–8 ft) long, and maximum is perhaps 3–4 m (10–13 ft).

The species was named by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1807, who discovered differences between the skulls of a mummified crocodile and those of Nile crocodile (C. niloticus). This new species was, however, for a long time afterwards regarded as a synonym of the Nile crocodile.

C. Suchus was known to be more docile than the Nile crocodile and was chosen by the Ancient Egyptians for spiritual rites, including mummification.

A recent DNA test found that all sampled mummified crocodiles from Grottes de Thebes, Grottes de Samoun, and Haute Egypt belonged to this species.

Wikipedia – West African Crocodile

The West African Crocodile was recognised as a “valid species” in 2011 and the process of relabelling captive crocodiles began.

The West African crocodile only received wider recognition as a valid species in 2011.

Consequently, captives have typically been confused with other species, especially the Nile crocodile.

In Europe, breeding pairs of West African crocodiles live in Copenhagen Zoo, Lyon Zoo and Vivarium de Lausanne, and offspring of the first pair are in Dublin Zoo and Kristiansand Zoo.

A study in 2015 that included sixteen captive “Nile crocodiles” in six US zoos (almost 25% of the “Nile crocodiles” in AZA zoos) found that all but one were actually West African crocodiles.

Wikipedia – West African Crocodile

The West African Crocodile has changed the distribution map.

The crocodile distribution map now provides support for the concept that the African landmass is formed from [at least] two sutured landmasses.

Anyone who hasn’t imbibed the Kool Aid would wonder whether the African Landmass is formed from [at least] two sutured landmasses.

This possibility is reinforced by the limited “hybrid zone” of the African Rock Python which [in it’s turn] suggests the suturing together of the African Landmass occurred recently.

Malaga Bay – African Lineaments

Another one of the “significant differences” is the West African Dwarf Crocodile.

The dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), also known as the African dwarf crocodile, broad-snouted crocodile (a name more often used for the Asian mugger crocodile) or bony crocodile, is an African crocodile that is also the smallest extant (living) species of crocodile. Sampling has identified three genetically distinct populations. Some feel that the findings should elevate the subspecies to full species status.

A study of morphology published in 2007, and studies of DNA in 2009, 2013 and 2015 indicate that three distinctly different populations of Osteolaemus may merit full species recognition.

These are O. tetrapis (Central Africa, except the Congo River Basin), O. osborni (Congo River Basin), and a third possibly unnamed species (West Africa).

Uncertainty exists for the population in Nigeria (between O. tetrapis and the possibly unnamed West African species) as it has not been studied.

A fourth clade was found in a study of captives in 2013, but where members of this clade live in the wild is unclear.

In some regions the species may come into contact.
For example, Cameroon is home to both O. tetrapis and O. osborni.

Wikipedia – Dwarf Crocodile

The distribution of the West African Dwarf Crocodile suggests they became genetically isolated when the opening of the Atlantic Ocean ripped apart a large endorheic basin.

Comparing Ptolemy’s map of West Africa with the current incarnation of West Africa indicates the Senegal Triple Junction fractured in the Current Era.

The Senegal Triple Junction fracture was inflationary with rips and tears.

Malaga Bay – Senegal Triple Junction

An endorheic basin is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but drainage converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation.

Wikipedia – Endorheic Basin

The nearest American crocodiles are 3,000 miles away in Venezuela.

Wikipedia – Crocodile

The Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) is a critically endangered crocodile. Its population is very small and it can only be found in freshwater environments in Colombia and Venezuela, in particular the Orinoco river and its tributaries.

Despite its large size, the Orinoco crocodile rarely poses a threat to humans, despite several reports.

Given its possible maximum sizes, the Orinoco crocodile may rank as the third largest extant true crocodile after the saltwater crocodile and Nile crocodile (which is closely related to the Orinoco despite its substantially different range) and rank 4th amongst all extant crocodilians behind additionally the gharial, though there is little to suggest that Orinoco specimens in modern times can rival these largest species.

Wikipedia – Orinoco Crocodile

The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas, with populations present from South Florida and the coasts of Mexico to as far south as Peru and Venezuela.

The habitat of the American crocodile consists largely of coastal areas. It is also found in river systems, but tends to prefer salinity, resulting in the species congregating in brackish lakes, mangrove swamps, lagoons, cays, and small islands. Other crocodiles also have tolerance to saltwater due to salt glands underneath the tongue, but the American crocodile is the only species other than the saltwater crocodile to commonly live and thrive in saltwater.

Until 2020, the evolution of the American crocodile was poorly understood.

However, the discovery of the Miocene species Crocodylus checchiai indicates that it, the Orinoco crocodile, Morelet’s crocodile, and the Cuban crocodile all share an ancestor hailing from Africa.

The newly discovered animal may also represent the base of the evolutionary radiation of these animals, representing the missing link between crocodiles in Africa and the Americas.

Wikipedia – American Crocodile

Crocodylus checchiai is an extinct species of crocodile from the Pliocene of Libya and the Miocene of Kenya.

C. checchiai was named in 1957 from the Sahabi Formation.

It is similar in appearance to the Nile crocodile C. niloticus and may even be the same species.

C. checchiai is one of the oldest species of Crocodylus and is placed at the base of the crocodile radiation.

Wikipedia – Crocodylus Checchiai

Some commentators suggest African crocodiles “covered hundreds of miles at sea” on their “voyage” across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.

The phylogenetic relationships among extant species of Crocodylus (Crocodylia) have been inconsistently resolved by previous systematic studies. Here we used nearly complete mitochondrial (mt) genomes (∼16,200 base pairs) for all described Crocodylus species, eight of which are new to this study, to derive a generally well-supported phylogenetic hypothesis for the genus.

Model-based analyses support monophyly of all Asian + Australian species and paraphyly of Crocodylus niloticus (Nile crocodile) with a monophyletic New World clade nested within this species.

Wild-caught Nile crocodiles from eastern populations group robustly with the four New World species to the exclusion of Nile crocodiles from western populations, a result that is also favored by parsimony analyses and by various subpartitions of the overall mt dataset.

The fossil record of Crocodylus extends back only to the Late Miocene, while the earliest fossils assigned to C. niloticus and to New World Crocodylus are Pliocene.

Therefore, in combination with paleontological evidence, mt DNA trees imply a relatively recent migration of Crocodylus from Africa to the Americas, a voyage that would have covered hundreds of miles at sea.

A phylogenetic hypothesis for Crocodylus (Crocodylia) based on mitochondrial DNA: Evidence for a trans-Atlantic voyage from Africa to the New World
Robert W Meredith, Evon R Hekkala, George Amato, John Gatesy
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Volume 60, Issue 1, July 2011, Pages 183-191

The Guinea Current is a slow warm water current that flows to the east along the Guinea coast of West Africa.

Wikipedia – Guinea Current

And “voyage” is the correct word if the African Crocodiles were passive passengers aboard a migrating landmass.

Malaga Bay – African Lineaments

Ptolemy’s North Africa becomes far more familiar when it’s Western coastline is subjected to a 48° [clockwise] Senegal Swing.

Malaga Bay – The Senegal Swing

Whether humans accompanied the African Crocodiles on their “voyage” is another question.

The Garifuna, previously known as Black Caribs, are the descendants of indigenous Arawak and Island Carib or Karɨpono and Afro-Caribbean people.

They are also known as Garínagu, the plural of Garifuna.

The founding population, estimated at 2,500 to 5,000 persons, were transplanted to the Central American coast from the Commonwealth Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, known to the Garínagu as Yurumein, now called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Windward Islands in the British West Indies in the Lesser Antilles. Approximately 65,000 Black Caribs now live in 54 fishing villages spread from Livingston (Guatemala), Dangriga, Belize, to La Fe, Nicaragua.

Garifuna communities still live in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Wikipedia – Garifuna

Black Caribs are the Garifuna ethnic group native to the island of St. Vincent. … Upon arrival of the Europeans, the island of St. Vincent was populated by the indigenous Black Carib (Garifuna).

So, according to some authors, basing on oral tradition of the Black Caribs and Garifuna, they are descendants of Caribbeans with the African origins Efik (Nigeria-Cameroon residents), Ibo (Nigerian), Fons (residents between Benin – Nigeria), Ashanti (from Ashanti Region, in central Ghana), Yoruba (resident in Togo, Benin, Nigeria) and Kongo (resident in Gabon, Congo, DR Congo and Angola), obtained in the coastal regions of West and Central Africa by Spanish and Portuguese traders of slaves.

Wikipedia – Black Caribs

The Olmecs were the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization.

The Olmecs flourished during Mesoamerica’s formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE.

Following a progressive development in Soconusco, they occupied the tropical lowlands of the modern-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco.

Wikipedia – Olmecs

The Maya writing system is one of the outstanding achievements of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas. … this is preceded by several other Mesoamerican writing systems, such as the Epi-Olmec and Zapotec scripts.

Wikipedia – Maya Civilization

The Epi-Olmec culture was a cultural area in the central region of the present-day Mexican state of Veracruz. … Epi-Olmec was a successor culture to the Olmec, hence the prefix “epi-” or “post-“.

Wikipedia – Epi-Olmec Culture

Malaga Bay – Harold Sterling Gladwin: Mayan Hieroglyphs

The answer to that question might explain why “most” of Alex Haley’s Roots is “either unsupported or contradicted by the available evidence”.

Publication date August 17, 1976

Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a 1976 novel written by Alex Haley. … The release of the novel, combined with its hugely popular television adaptation, Roots (1977), led to a cultural sensation in the United States.

The book was originally described as “fiction,” yet sold in the non-fiction section of bookstores. Haley spent the last chapter of the book describing his research in archives and libraries to support his family’s oral tradition with written records. However, historians and genealogists found critical errors in his research. Most of the novel is either unsupported or contradicted by the available evidence.

Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte—a young man taken from the Gambia when he was seventeen and sold as a slave—and seven generations of his descendants in the United States.

Wikipedia – Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Roots is an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The series first aired on ABC in January 1977.

Roots originally aired on ABC for eight consecutive nights from January 23 to 30, 1977.

The miniseries was watched by an estimated 130 million and 140 million viewers total (more than half of the U.S. 1977 population of 221 million—the largest viewership ever attracted by any type of television series in US history as tallied by Nielsen Media Research) and averaged a 44.9 rating and 66% to 80% viewer share of the audience.

The final episode was watched by 100 million viewers and an average of 80 million viewers watched each of the last seven episodes.

Eighty-five percent of all television homes saw all or part of the miniseries.

Wikipedia – Roots (1977 miniseries)

Jufureh (also spelled Juffureh or Juffure) is a town in the Gambia, 30 kilometers inland on the north bank of the River Gambia in the North Bank Division near James Island.

Jufureh is known for its appearance in Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, as the birthplace of Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte.

After the publication of Roots, Jufureh became a significant tourist destination. This led to economic benefits for the town, including the construction of an elementary school, a new market aimed at tourists, and improved roads.

Wikipedia – Jufureh

Malaga Bay – Senegal Triple Junction

Either way:

The concept of indigenous American Africans appears to be very much off-limits.

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12 Responses to African Crocodiles

  1. malagabay says:

    Piecing together South America is very much a work in progress.

  2. Boris Tabaksplatt says:

    Brilliant, Tim – I think you’ve struck the unguis on the noddle. Crocks and Olmecs are a winning combination. I’ve found a World map of Haplogroup ‘R’, which may help in defining the original join…

  3. Yry says:

    Yes, having lived in the Congo long enough, I recognize certain Bantu
    sounds and words here in north west Colombia (although not fluent at
    all personally!) and I often made these remarks to locals in Bogota or
    to blacks on the coast.
    Obviously, I took for granted the storyline that ALL blacks were enslaved
    and shipped out to the Americas (I did read the book ‘Roots’ in its time).

    Your post is helping clear out at least a part of the real storyline over the
    slave trade and that is no mean job of yours!

    As for caimans and crocodiles living in the north west part of Colombia,
    i.e. in the Cordoba dept and the Magdalena river areas, there are two
    main species:
    – the caimans of the dept of Cordoba averaging + or – 2m, rather sleek and
    colored blackish-grey except underneath which is colored light yellow.
    They people the mangroves and the region of the rio Sinù.

    – The bigger stuff peoples the Magdalena river and its immediate
    surroundings being caimans as well but reaching a respectable
    7 m at times but more often 2 to 3m-long while being colored
    greenish-grey and of a bulkier size.
    That species would match what I witnessed in the Congo.
    By the way, the Congo locals do call them ‘caimans’, never crocodiles…

    Great work, thank you Tim !!

  4. Yry says:

    Worth mentioning upon insistence from my wife:
    – she recalls that her father would bring his whole family each year to the
    beach of Coveñitas in the north west Colombian Depto of Cordoba and he
    would at times question the local real blacks whether they remembered
    anything of their own past history and of slavery.
    Invariably their answers were devoid of anything related to slavery or to
    forced transport by boat.
    Rather they would insist at having proudly conserved their culture and music
    along with a very vague remembrance of originating from a country afar.

    – The same trend would apply to me when I questioned some blacks in the
    region of the river Sinù, eastward of Cordoba, which incidentally is also
    peopled by Chinese descendents equally vaguely aware of a country afar…

    • I have found that it takes old age, ie the time to learn and acquire experience, to realise that there were long centuries were others had made it their business to eradicate a people’s culture and instead implant a fake one that was conductive to their interests.

      In my case I found, from my early experiences, that my grandparents still had knowledge of the ancient culture, but which was ‘prohibited’ to speak about in spite of only it made sense of ancient customs that had become absorbed and embedded in the new dogma. They did not come ‘from afar’ to use that term, but had been here from time immemorial.
      The black art of ‘cultural Damnatio memoriae’.

      • Boris Tabaksplatt says:

        “…They did not come ‘from afar’ to use that term, but had been here from time immemorial…”

        Very good point. Many generations of my family have lived in the same bailiwick for many generations, as does my wife’s family. What is, is what was, unless there is extraordinary evidence to the contrary. Our historians and politicians would wish that this was untrue. It’s very hard to progress in the correctt direction, unless you know where you’re starting from.

  5. Pingback: The Alligator’s Long March | MalagaBay

  6. Yry says:

    @ melitamegalithic
    “it takes old age, ie the time to learn and acquire experience”:
    – Can’t agree more!

    “Black art of ‘cultural Damnatio memoriae’.
    – I’ll certainly use this expression here and there!

    @ Tim
    – Thank you for those handy maps!

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