University of Tennessee study finds crocodiles climb trees
When most people envision crocodiles and alligators, they think of them waddling on the ground or wading in water -- not climbing trees. However, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study has found that the reptiles can climb trees as far as the crowns. Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, is the first to thoroughly study the tree-climbing and -basking behavior. The research is published in the journal Herpetology.
Dinets and his colleagues observed crocodilian species on three continents -- Australia, Africa and North America -- and examined previous studies and anecdotal observations. They found that four species climbed trees -- usually above water -- but how far they ventured upward and outward varied by their sizes. The smaller crocodilians were able to climb higher and further than the larger ones. Some species were observed climbing as far as four meters high in a tree and five meters down a branch.
"Climbing a steep hill or steep branch is mechanically similar, assuming the branch is wide enough to walk on," the authors wrote. "Still, the ability to climb vertically is a measure of crocodiles' spectacular agility on land."
The crocodilians seen climbing trees, whether at night or during the day, were skittish of being approached, jumping or falling into the water when an approaching observer was as far as 10 meters away. This response led the researchers to believe that the tree climbing and basking are driven by two conditions: thermoregulation and surveillance of habitat.
"The most frequent observations of tree-basking were in areas where there were few places to bask on the ground, implying that the individuals needed alternatives for regulating their body temperature," the authors wrote. "Likewise, their wary nature suggests that climbing leads to improved site surveillance of potential threats and prey."
The data suggests that at least some crocodilian species are able to climb trees despite lacking any obvious morphological adaptations to do so.
"These results should be taken into account by paleontologists who look at changes in fossils to shed light on behavior," said Dinets. "This is especially true for those studying extinct crocodiles or other Archosaurian taxa."
Dinets collaborated with Adam Britton from Charles Darwin University in Australia and Matthew Shirley from the University of Florida.
Research by Dinets published in 2013 found another surprising crocodilian characteristic -- the use of lures such as sticks to hunt prey. More of his research can be found in his book "Dragon Songs."
Source: University of Tennessee
- Crikey! Crocodiles Can Climb Trees (But They Don't Flaunt It)from MSNBC: ScienceTue, 11 Feb 2014, 19:00:32 EST
- Crikey! Crocodiles Can Climb Treesfrom Live ScienceTue, 11 Feb 2014, 17:00:28 EST
- Study finds crocodile tree-climbing and -basking behaviorfrom PhysorgTue, 11 Feb 2014, 9:31:33 EST
- Uh-oh: Tennessee study finds crocodiles climb treesfrom Science BlogTue, 11 Feb 2014, 9:01:00 EST
- Crocodilians can climb trees and bask in the tree crownsfrom Science DailyTue, 11 Feb 2014, 5:30:30 EST
- University of Tennessee Study Finds Crocodiles Climb Treesfrom Newswise - ScinewsMon, 10 Feb 2014, 19:00:35 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- NASA sees Lester strengthening into fourth major Eastern Pacific hurricane
- Parkinson's study could pave way for early detection test
- Less than one-third of adults with depression receive treatment
- Many adults who screen positive for depression don't receive treatment
- New research sheds light on how aged wine gets its aroma
- New tiny species of extinct Australian marsupial lion named after Sir David Attenborough
- New method developed for producing some metals
- Children with food allergies predisposed to asthma, rhinitis
- Temple scientists discover structural clues to calcium regulation in cells
- Ecological consequences of amphetamine pollution in urban streams
- High-tech imaging reveals precolonial Mexican manuscript hidden from view for 500 years
- Being the primary breadwinner is bad for men's psychological well-being and health
- UCLA physicists discover 'apparent departure from the laws of thermodynamics'
- NASA monitors the 'new normal' of sea ice
- Scripps Florida study finds 'missing evolutionary link' of widely used natural drug source