Of Predators and Parents
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Scientists discovered that crocodiles are able to detect distress calls from the infants of other species, including humans and bonobo apes, the New York Times reported.
In a new paper, the giant reptiles appeared to be attracted to the wailing cries of young animals, even though they were not always intending to help them.
A research team placed speakers near dozens of Nile crocodiles at a Moroccan zoo and observed how the animals would react to recordings of crying humans, bonobos and chimpanzee babies.
The team noticed that the huge predator – which can reach up to 18 feet in length – would look or move toward the speaker when the sounds were played. Some would even bite the equipment thinking it’s edible.
The findings also showed that the crocs were primarily attracted to shrieks that sound more distressed, which the researchers believe that the big reptile interprets as easy prey.
They explained that the results “speak to what could drive survival,” which suggests that crocodiles evolved to listen to scared baby animals to feed.
But despite their fearsome reputation, Nile crocodiles are also attentive and caring parents: In one instance, a croc placed itself in front of the speaker and tried to keep others away.
The authors believe that maybe it was trying to protect the source of the sound.
Even so, other scientists noted that the research team did not use non-distressed sounds for the paper and did not discern which animal was male or female.
These details could have helped solve the main question of whether the crocs approached the cries as predators or concerned parents.