Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Crocodylus johnstoni in the McKinlay River Area, N.T. I. Variation in the Diet, and a New Method of Assessing the Relative Importance of Prey.

GJW Webb, SC Manolis and R Buckworth

Australian Journal of Zoology 30(6) 877 - 899
Published: 1982


The stomach contents of 153 C. johnstoni were examined by a modification of the method for stomach contents removal described by Taylor et al. (1978). Prey are analysed on the basis of taxonomy, although more emphasis is placed on prey equivalents, using a concept termed 'target size'. The relative importance of different taxa and prey equivalents is determined by a number of methods, and a ranking method is preferred. The most important prey are aquatic and terrestrial insects, fish and crustaceans. The most important sized organisms are target size 5, animals presenting a maximum area of 1.0-4.0 cm2. With regard to size of prey eaten, three size groups of C. johnstoni (16-25, 26-55 and 56-129 cm snout-vent length) were homogeneous within themselves but were significantly different from each other. With increased body size there was a significant increase in the proportion of aquatic prey eaten. Secondary ingestion did not appear a major bias. C. johnstoni ate appreciably more during the wet season than during the dry season, although seasonal comparisons were restricted due to the samples not coming from the same pools. Vegetation was found in 39.9% of crocodile stomachs, and its presence varied with season but not with crocodile size. Stomach parasites were present in 43.8% of animals, and the number of infected crocodiles varied with season and site. Stones were present in 88.2% of crocodiles; however, when compared with those of C. niloticus the stone loads were relatively small. Most data indicate that C. johnstoni is very much an opportunistic predator at the water's edge, which feeds primarily on small aquatic prey, although it may also take substantial numbers of terrestrial prey organisms. During the wet season there is a major shift in the importance of different prey taxa eaten, although the importance of prey equivalents remains largely unchanged.

© CSIRO 1982

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