If you ever find yourself trying to escape a crocodile, don’t climb a tree. New studies reveal that four species of crocodilians are adept tree climbers. Oh, and apparently they can use tools.
As reported in Herpetology News, in one case, a croc was spotted 13 feet off the ground – and as far as 16 feet out on a branch.
The team described the sizeable feat, noting that to get there the animal had to scale “a completely vertical bank and then [walk] amongst the branches to reach the end of the tree.”
Although the reptiles are commonly considered ground-dwellers, finding a crocodile in a tree was no rare incident along the Nile, crocs were spotted in trees as frequently as some birds were.
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As ectothermic, or cold-blooded, animals, crocodiles can’t regulate their own body temperature; instead, they rely on outside sources like the sun. Often, the climbing critters were seen in areas where there was little ground space for the animals to bask, leading the observers to gather that they climb trees as an alternative method “for regulating their body temperature.”
In terms of the height each animal was able to reach in the trees, smaller crocs were able to go higher than larger ones. All across the board, they were “somewhat skittish”; whenever they were approached, they “jumped or fell into the water.”
The study connected crocodiles’ wary nature to this habit by noting that “climbing leads to improved site surveillance of potential threats and prey.”
In one notable case, a crocodile in Australia was observed trying to climb a chain-link fence.
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Previously, anecdotal accounts of alligators or crocodiles in trees had been reported in Columbia, Mississippi, and the Nile; these instances were backed up by a mere three references in scientific literature.
As far as the tools go:
In addition to climbing to the crown level of trees to perform improved surveillance, crocodiles and alligators also use tools. That’s right—they use sticks for numerous purposes. The twigs and sticks are used to hide and disguise themselves so they can go incognito while hunting, and they are also used to mimic nesting supplies that birds may need.
The new study examined the creatures throughout Africa, North America, and Australia. The team was led by Vladimir Dinets, a researcher at the University of Tennessee.
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