Crocodile eats shark: Is that normal?

A saltwater crocodile in Australia's Northern Territory was photographed devouring a bull shark. How common is it for crocs to eat sharks?

By , Contributor

In a river in Australia's Northwest Territories, Brutus, a three-legged saltwater crocodile devoured a bull shark.

In a fight between a shark and a crocodile, who would win? Several tourists on a tour in Australia's Adelaide River on Monday got to find out.

Known for its unique ecology and cultural history, Kakadu National Park is a protected area in Australia's Northern Territory  The Adelaide River, which runs through the park, is also known for Brutus, an 18-foot-long saltwater crocodile believed to be eighty years old. 

According to NT News, Brutus was spotted on the 11 o’clock tour cruise with a large, wriggling fish in its mouth. It soon became apparent that the fish in question was actually a nearly 5-foot-long bull shark. 

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“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one of our crocs catch a shark. It was amazing,” said the cruise director, Morgan Bowman. “It just shows for an old croc, Brutus is pretty quick.”

Though Brutus certainly had a significant size advantage on the shark, the old crocodile is missing most of his teeth and one of his forelegs. The story goes that he actually lost his leg to a shark several years ago, but it’s doubtful that Brutus was out for revenge.

A spokesman from the Taronga Zoo told the Sydney Morning Herald that saltwater crocodiles like Brutus will eat just about anything, including sharks. 

 "Crocs are quite opportunistic, they will eat anything they can overpower. When you're dealing with a five-meter crocodile, they're tremendously capable. Here you've got a meeting of two Top End predators, and in this instance the croc has managed to grab the shark and is using its remarkable strength to overpower it."

Saltwater crocodiles, known affectionately as “salties” to many Australians, are the largest crocodile on earth. Average males reach about 17 feet and weigh 1,000 pounds, but 23-foot-long specimens weighing in at 2,200 pounds are not uncommon, notes National Geographic.

The average lifespan of a saltwater crocodile in the wild is about 70 years, making Brutus a fairly elderly croc. Most salties eat water buffalo, monkeys, and wild boar. Sharks are also a fairly common menu item, though they are harder to find in the shallow waters inhabited by saltwater crocodiles.

In 2012, a “bite test” of all 23 living species of crocodiles put the saltwater crocodile’s bite at 3,700 pounds per square inch. This makes the saltwater crocodile’s the most powerful bite ever measured directly, one that possibly rivals that of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

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