Crocs can Climb Trees; Yes, They Do! Study Reveals

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By Athena Yenko | February 17, 2014 3:23 PM EST

A new shocking ability about crocodiles was revealed by a study titled Climbing Behaviour in Extant Crocodiles. The study was published through the Herpetology Notes.

Yes, crocs can climb trees too.

The Australian freshwater crocodiles can actually climb steep slopes along riverbanks, according to the study.

"Hatchlings of both species...can even climb vertical brickwork, which is the cause of occasional crocodile farm escapes," Dr Adam Britton, study co-author at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, NT told the Australian Geographic.

"Nobody who has ever witnessed a freshwater crocodile run in a galloping gait would ever suspect them capable of such agility [in the trees], yet they are skilled at it," said Mr Britton.

 Dr Vladimir Dinets from the University of Tennessee, the head author for research, and his team of scientists found that four different crocodile species found in Australia, Africa and the Americas have the ability to climb trees.

These species that are able to climb trees can go as high as 4 metres. Their abilities also vary by size. Those small and lightweight crocs, 1.5m long, can climb the highest branches. Those heavier in weight can be found in lower branches, cannot go as high as one metre above water.

It was found that crocodiles developed the agility to climb trees to laze under the sun and to survey their surroundings against possible threats or for possible food.

Fortunately, the study also found that people need not worry about crocodiles attacking from above because crocodiles, especially during daytime, are jumpy and would likely slide off branches.

Professor Grahame Webb, a biologist and founder of the Crocodylus Park in Darwin  said that even with this new findings, he had never seen any slatwater or freshwater crocodiles on top of trees.

"I have difficulty even imagining a crocodile several metres up in a mangrove," he said.

Paleontologists Dr Paul Willis, director of the Royal Institute of Australia, in Adelaide, in 1990 had already published a research on the possibility of extinct tree-dwelling crocodiles.

But finding that existing crocodiles can climb trees is a big shocker for him.

"I was tickled to see new research addressing the possibility that now-extinct crocodile species could climb," he says.

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