Study Finds Crocodiles Climb Trees

Posted on February 11, 2014

American Alligator perches on a tree branch


A University of Tennessee study has found that crocodiles can climb trees. An American alligator is perched on a tree branch in Pearl River Delta, Mississippi in the above photograph. The study, led by Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, observed crocodile species on three continents. Dinets also led the recent research that found crocodiles use twigs to lure birds.

The researchers found a total of four species of crocodilians that can climb trees. How far the reptiles ventured upward and outward varied by their sizes. Smaller crocodiles were able to climb higher up in the trees than the larger ones. Some species were observed climbing as far as four meters high in a tree and five meters down a branch. A couple reasons for the climbing behavior include regulating body temperatures and watching for threats and potential meals.

The researchers say, "The most frequent observations of tree-basking were in areas where there were few places to bask on the ground, implying that the individuals needed alternatives for regulating their body temperature. Likewise, their wary nature suggests that climbing leads to improved site surveillance of potential threats and prey."

The study about the climbing behavior of crocodiles was published in the journal, Herpetology Notes. The article can be read online here (PDF).

Photo: Kristine Gingras, used with permission