Climbing crocodiles

Good gracious, this was a surprise to read about this morning…did you know…that crocodiles can climb trees?  And not just crocodiles, but all crocodilians including alligators?

It seems to be true, in spite of my father pleading me to tell him it was a hoax.  The study was published in a real (albeit young and low profile) journal called Herpetology Notes (an online only journal with an acceptance rate of 90%, which requires a pre-peer review for its shorter papers…hmm…).  But here’s the thing, I’ve read the paper and the findings are not that shocking.

As the authors themselves state: “Climbing a steep hill and climbing a tree branch are mechanically similar assuming the branch is wide enough to walk on, and especially if that branch grows at an angle, as those of certain tree species tend to be when overhanging water. In theory a wide range of animals can climb trees if the branches are wide enough and the angle is shallow enough.” (Dinets et al 2013)

So, yes, crocodiles climb trees, but they don’t climb trees like a squirrel, they climb trees like you would imagine a crocodile climbs trees…they sort of waddle their way up branches, fallen trunks, and broad roots.

American Crocodiles in Costa Rica

NB: the methods section of that paper is pretty obnoxious to anyone who has tried to publish a paper: “All observations were conducted opportunistically in the course of unrelated research. Sizes and distances were estimated visually. Details on locations, dates and sample sizes are provided in relevant chapters below.”


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