Crocodiles can climb straight up trees

Some alligators and crocodiles don't just lurk in water. They lurk in trees.
(J. Pat Carter / Associated Press)

Crocodiles and alligators can -- and do -- climb trees.

“Climbing behavior is common among crocodilians,” reads a new study in Herpetology Notes.

The study includes a picture of a Mississippi gator perched on the branch of a tree. Is that a smile on its face? And there’s this tidbit: “One adult dwarf crocodile escaped from its enclosure at the Bristol Zoo ... by climbing up a tree growing at an angle and then over the barrier.”

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The report comes from researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s department of psychology. They found five crocodilian species on three continents (Australia, Africa and North America) able to climb trees. And the animals don’t just conquer trees that are bent. Some can make a vertical climb, the researchers assert, “as long as footholds are available.”

Perhaps it’s some comfort that the ability to heft themselves up trees decreases as the mass and size of the croc or gator increases. Although hatchlings, with their light weight and relatively strong claws (and their snappy, sharp teeth), can even climb “vertical brickwork,” the researchers report.


You would think that after 200 million years, these reptiles would no longer surprise. But this report follows one in December about “tool use” by crocs and gators.

As the L.A. Times’ Amina Khan reported, mugger crocodiles and American alligators were found to balance twigs on their snouts as a method of luring prey to its doom -- the first report of tool use in reptiles.

Just another reason for these beasts to make you shiver.

Herpetophobic? Follow me at @AmyTheHub

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