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An African species of crocodile known for having a taste for humans has been found in the Sunshine State.

'Man-eating' Nile crocodiles found in Florida

Daniel Martins
Digital News Reporter

Sunday, May 22, 2016, 1:36 PM - Florida already has an abundance of alligators, and a growing problem with invasive python species. Now, on top of all that, an African species of crocodile known for having a taste for humans has been found in the Sunshine State as well.

That's what researchers at the University of Florida announced last week. The team performed DNA analysis on three juvenile Nile crocodiles captured between 2000 and 2014, and found them to be linked to populations endemic to South Africa.

And they're not just surviving, but thriving -- one juvenile exhibited a rate of growth 28 per cent faster than its native African counterparts -- to the point where the researchers seem certain there are more of them in the Floridian wilderness.

"The odds that the few of us who study Florida reptiles have found all of the Nile crocs out there is probably unlikely," Kenneth Krysko said in a release from the university. "We know that they can survive in the Florida wilderness for numerous years, we know that they grow quickly here and we know their behavior in their native range, and there is no reason to suggest that would change here in Florida."

The 'man-eating' moniker used by the researchers in their initial press release is based on annual statistics suggesting they're not averse to snatching unsuspecting humans from riverbanks in their native Africa. Continent-wide, the researchers say Nile crocodiles attacked 480 people between 2010 and 2014, with 123 fatalities reported.

Even if they don't attack humans in Florida, they still have a smorgasbord of food to choose from.

"They are generalist predators and eat a wide variety of prey. In Florida, everything from native birds, fish and mammals to the state’s native crocodile and alligator would be fair game for the carnivorous croc," the researchers say.

The researchers say there is currently no evidence the species has established itself, though they recommend scientists look into the potential for the species to spread, as the climate is generally favourable.

It's not known how the crocodiles arrived in Florida, but the scientists say many have been imported over the last decade from South Africa and Madagascar for sale as exotic pets and for public display.

The researchers' study was published in the April edition of the Journal of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

SOURCE: University of Florida

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