Study: Crocodiles Able to Climb Trees
Which is just freaky
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2014 9:25 AM CST
Updated Feb 12, 2014 10:00 AM CST
Crocodiles aren't necessarily stuck on the ground.   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

(Newser) – As far as discoveries go, this is a somewhat terrifying one, assuming one has a healthy respect for crocodiles on the ground: They can climb and perch in trees. And they can really climb, with researchers spotting them more than a dozen feet from the ground. While anecdotal reports have placed the reptiles in trees in Mississippi, Colombia, and along the Nile, only three references to such behavior appear in scientific literature. And so researchers set out to determine whether it was a regular practice, observing crocodilians (which includes crocs and alligators) on three continents: Australia, Africa, and North America. What they found, as reported in Herpetology Notes: Four species were identified as able to climb trees, and were spotted, in once case, as high as 13 feet above the ground—and as far as 16 feet down a branch.

Getting there meant scaling "a completely vertical bank and then [walking] amongst the branches to reach the end of the tree," wrote the team, led by University of Tennessee researcher Vladimir Dinets. Another wild observation, per Wired: Along the Nile, crocodiles were seen in the trees as often as some birds were. The crocodiles were observed climbing trees (and, in one case in Australia, trying to climb a chain-link fence) during day and night, typically in "areas where there were few places to bask on the ground, implying that the individuals needed alternatives for regulating their body temperature," they wrote, per e! Science News. Smaller crocs could go higher and further than their larger counterparts, and all were somewhat skittish: When approached, they jumped or fell into the water. (Dinets made waves with this crocodile study last year.)

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Showing 3 of 29 comments
Mar 30, 2014 11:09 AM CDT
The birds are now screwed.
Feb 15, 2014 11:41 AM CST
They are known as the perfect killing machine "that has stood the test of time" for a reason.
Feb 15, 2014 2:32 AM CST
I just found the original scientific paper and what they are really describing is crocodiles crawling up shallowly angled branches, which isn't really any different to them crawling up river banks. The paper itself has been sensationalised, it is mainly the photos in it that show what they really mean.