As if spotting a crocodile in the water or on land wasn’t enough, new research revealed some species of crocodiles can climb trees.
Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and his colleagues watched crocodile species on three continents and analyzed earlier research. They discovered that four species of crocodiles climbed trees.
Researchers documented tree-climbing Australian freshwater crocodiles, American crocodiles, Central African slender-snouted crocodiles and Nile crocodiles. They also noted reports of many other crocodiles species taking to the trees.
“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 online Jan. 25 in the journal Herpetology Notes. “Likewise, their wary nature suggests that climbing leads to improved site surveillance of potential threats and prey.”
However, how far they climbed differed depending on their size. According to the researchers, smaller crocodiles were able to move higher and further than the bigger ones. In fact, some were seen climbing as far as four meters high and five meters out.
“Climbing a steep hill or steep branch is mechanically similar, assuming the branch is wide enough to walk on,” the authors wrote in a statement released by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “Still, the ability to climb vertically is a measure of crocodiles’ spectacular agility on land.”
There is no evidence that crocodiles have evolved to climb trees, but they are still capable of climbing high, Dinets and his colleagues concluded.
The crocs use their perches to observe their surroundings and watch for threats. The animals often picked branches hanging over bodies of water. When startled, the young crocs would plunge into the water.