Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crocodiles climb

This morning, the rather offputting news that crocodilians can climb trees! The scientific literature dating back to 1972 cites only 3 references, but anecdotal reports describe both crocodiles and alligators as high as 30' (9 m) up in trees in Mexico, the United States (IMAGE ABOVE TAKEN IN MISSISSIPPI), Columbia, and along the Nile. So an international team of researchers decided to do their own survey. They spotted crocodiles in trees, day and night, around the world and suggest the behavior exists as a means for the animals to regulate their body temperature and survey their environment. In Africa, crocodiles were seen in trees as frequently as some birds. Russian born zoologist Vladimir Dinets and his colleagues write, "Juvenile crocodilians can...climb on relatively thin, vertical branches that have to be gripped from the sides, or even across multiple branches using them as a ladder and lifting the body vertically." But this, by no means, rules out the adults. In the Florida Everglades and Central America, they saw crocodiles basking on branches that could only have been reached by climbing the vertical trunks of the mangrove trees. They saw one crocodile in Australia attempting to scale a chain-link fence. Another was observed on a log 13' (almost 4 m) above the water and 16' (almost 5 m) from the riverbank: To reach this site the crocodile would have had to scale a completely vertical bank and then walk amongst the branches to reach the end of the tree." The observers report that the crocodiles are skittish and most fell off their logs or dove into the water as they approached. But the idea of these carnivores above our heads is a bit more sinister than the bizarre but benign image of arboreal goats.

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