Can Crocodiles Regrow Limbs?

Lizards, iguanas, and other reptiles are famous for being able to regenerate a lost tail, but what about the largest of all reptiles, the crocodile? Can crocodiles regrow limbs?

No, crocodiles cannot regrow lost limbs. These giant reptiles cannot regrow a lost leg or tail like some other reptiles. If a crocodile loses a leg in a fight, they have to do without it for the rest of its life.

Crocodiles are apex predators with few natural enemies, unlike smaller reptiles that may have developed this ability to escape more easily.

Let’s look at this phenomenon more closely and see how crocs lose body parts in the first place.

crocodile legs and tail

How Do Crocodiles Lose Their Limbs?

Crocodiles can lose their limbs in several ways, most commonly to other crocodiles in fights over territory or mates.

While these reptiles are armored with tough skin and sharp teeth, they’re not invulnerable. Crocodiles are especially at risk of losing limbs (or their lives) when they’re still young.

Baby saltwater crocodiles, for example, are only 30 cm (12 inches) long and can weigh 70 grams (2.5 ounces). These tiny crocs are prone to predation from large fish, birds, lizards, other crocodiles, and even leopards.

For this reason, mother crocodiles often stay with their young for many months after birth, protecting them from outside predators.

Crocodiles can also lose a limb when hunting large prey animals that fight back. Not every hunt is successful; if a heavy animal puts all their weight on the right spot, it could mean instant amputation.

Humans can also play a part in limb loss; whether from a trap or a hunting session gone wrong, crocodiles may escape with their lives, but they may lose a leg in the process.

two crocodiles fighting in the water

Is a Tail a Limb?

Generally speaking, a tail is not considered a limb. A limb is widely accepted as an animal’s arm or leg, often weight-bearing, or a bird’s wing. A tail is neither weight-bearing nor a wing, so we cannot classify a tail as a limb.

Tails are generally considered appendages to the body. An appendage is an external body part, or natural prolongation, that protrudes from an organism’s body.

As crocodilian use their tails to propel them through water, a crocodile’s tail could be considered closer to a fish’s fin than a limb.

In a broader sense, many people consider the tails of crocodilians, monkeys, and cheetahs to be limbs, as they serve an important purpose in how they survive in their natural habitat.

Without a tail, a cheetah would be unable to catch its prey, and young crocodilians may be unable to escape dangerous predators.

For this reason, we’re just going to use the term interchangeably, even if it is technically incorrect.

What Animals Can Regrow Limbs?

Now that we’ve established that crocodiles cannot regrow their limbs let’s take a look at some animals that can regrow their limbs and tails:

Axolotl

axolotl

The axolotl, a permanently aquatic relative of the tiger salamander, is one of the most well-known animals that can regenerate lost body parts.

If an axolotl loses its tail or a leg, it will grow back. An axolotl can regenerate any lost appendage, including its spinal cord.

Alligator

Although similar to a crocodile in many ways, alligators are the largest reptiles that can regrow a lost tail.

A recent study of juvenile alligators discovered they could regrow up to nine inches of their tail (albeit without the bones and skeletal muscles) when lost.

Starfish

Starfish are marine invertebrates that can regenerate lost body parts. If a starfish loses an arm, it can grow a new one.

Sometimes, an entirely new starfish can grow from a single severed arm.

Spiders

You’re not alone if you consider spiders creepy crawlies rather than pets. And if you do, this will probably not make them any less creepy.

If a spider loses a leg, it will grow a new one. This process can take several weeks or months and happens when the spider is molting (shedding its exoskeleton).

Lizards

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, lizards are infamous for being able to shed their tail when they’re in danger and regrow a new one.

It can take a couple of months for them to regrow their tail, but using it as an effective distraction to escape is well worth it.

Final Thoughts On Crocodiles Regrowing Limbs

Although crocodiles cannot regrow their limbs, alligators can regrow their tails when young.

Crocodiles lose their legs while fighting other crocodiles for territory or mates or when they are young and vulnerable to predation.

Once their tail or legs are gone, they’re gone for good, unlike some animals, such as axolotls or starfish, which can regrow almost their entire body if injured.

We hope this article has taught you something new about crocodiles and their ability (or lack thereof) to regrow lost limbs.