From: S.E. Smith, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published February 18, 2014 12:41 PM

Time to Start Looking Up: Crocodiles Can Climb Trees

If I were being attacked by a crocodile, I’d high tail it for high ground, preferably in the form of a nice, sturdy tree to climb up. With their stocky, solid bodies, crocodiles don’t look like they’re adapted for tree-climbing, and I figure I’d be pretty safe. As it turns out, though, I might be making a very poor life choice: a new study shows that crocodiles, despite all odds, can and do climb trees. Frequently. So I wouldn’t be enjoying the safety of my arboreal perch for long.

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The researchers studied crocodiles in Australia, North America, and Africa, to get a range of crocodilian populations and behaviors. What they found was that in areas where there’s limited ground for basking, the animals will climb trees to access sun, and can in fact clamber all the way up to the crowns of trees to access some rays. Crocodiles, it would appear, take sunbathing even more seriously than supermodels.

However, their basking habits are bad news for hominids. People in regions where crocodiles are common are accustomed to keeping a lookout at ground level, and to being especially careful around sunny patches of ground and water. They aren’t, however, used to looking up for potential predators. A person walking through crocodile territory might be perceived as a threat — or a snack — and could be beset from above, which aside from being most unpleasant would be entirely unexpected. That means that people need to be warned about the potential dangers of crocodiles and the importance of looking everywhere for them, especially in their known territories.

Trees provide a great vantage point for crocodiles, allowing them to keep an eye out for potential rivals, animals stepping into their territory, and, of course, prey. Since many animals, not just humans, aren't accustomed to looking for for potential predators, trees also provide an ideal camouflage spot for an ambush. A waiting crocodile can catch some rays while waiting for dinner to stroll by and drop straight onto whatever it’s hunting; the height combined with the heft of the crocodile would create quite a punch.

This study shows that crocodiles are extremely agile, something researchers already knew, but appreciated having confirmation on. In observations, researchers saw crocodiles approaching and resolving tree-climbing problems with remarkable physical and mental agility.

Read more from our affiliate, Care2.

Crocodile head image via Shutterstock

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