We conducted a study of American Crocodile nesting ecology in coastal Belize from June 1996 to July 1997. Most nesting areas were found on elevated beach ridges composed of coarse sand. Shallow, brackish lagoons adjacent to nesting areas provide critical nursery habitat for hatchlings. The most significant nesting areas were found in the Turneffe Atoll. American crocodiles construct both hole and mound nests in Belize. Clutches are deposited during the last half of the dry season, from late March to early May. Mean clutch size is 22.3 ± 6.0 eggs. Hatching occurred from late June to mid-July, a period coinciding with the beginning of the wet season. Nesting success was high, and losses to predation and flooding were negligible. Females may defend nests from predators and excavate neonates at hatching, but otherwise parental care appears minimal. The protection of suitable nesting and nursery habitat is essential for the continued survival of the American crocodile in Belize.
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Vol. 2000 • No. 3