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Jumping
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GENERAL BIOLOGY Locomotion - Jumping
C. porosus starting to jump
TYPE:Behaviour
FUNCTION:Moving the crocodile vertically, usually in order to catch a prey item above it (e.g. overhanging branch) or the bank. The speed of the leap can be remarkable fast.
INVOLVING:Tail for propulsion in water, front and rear legs to act as springs when in contact with the ground.

GENERAL | BELLY CRAWL | HIGH WALK | GALLOP | SWIMMING | JUMPING

You don't often associate crocodiles with the ability to jump, but in fact several species have been observed jumping - usually out of water, although one or two have the ability to leap on land. Leaping does not have to be just vertical, either. Lunging out of the water onto the land to surprise and capture prey is a classic method of hunting used by crocodilians. The same basic principles apply to each method of moving the crocodile's body out of the water at speed.

leaping saltwater crocodiles Crocodiles do not leap out of the water like dolphins, which approach the surface at speed from several feet under the water and leap several feet into the air. Rather, crocodiles start the leap while stationary at the water's surface - they need to be able to see their target before they start to leap, and if the target is above them they'll tip their head upwards to get a better view.binocular vision Crocodiles can judge the distance to their target very accurately - they have binocular vision in front of their heads (i.e. the visual fields of left and right eyes overlap - see right), so they can use parallax to estimate distance. Once ready, the crocodile immediately starts to use powerful sinusoidal undulations of its tail to literally push itself upwards out of the water. In under a second, the crocodile can raise itself several feet into the air.

freshie in shallow waterIf its feet are in contact with the substrate (e.g. in the shallows near the bank, see left), they can act like spring-loaded pistons to push the crocodile's body forward at high speed. This "lunge" is used by several species to surprise and capture prey on the bank - brought to fame by footage of C. niloticus snatching animals which have come to drink at African waterholes. crocodiles exploding out of waterCrocodiles are well-known for this ability to "explode" out of the water to grab animals standing on the bank (see right), but vertical leaping tends to be slower. To be most effective, the vertical leap takes place in slightly deeper water so that the crocodile can position its body at a steep angle as the tail pushes the crocodile upwards.


C. porosus powering itself upwards and forwards Crocodilians tend to leap vertically more frequently when they are younger - leaping up to take small insects sitting on aquatic grasses, for example. Larger adults have been observed to leap upwards to take animals from overhanging branches. C. rhombifer (Cuban crocodile) has turned this method of capturing prey into quite an art, taking arboreal mammals from the branches of trees overhanging the water. The larger the animal gets, the less of its body it can push out of the water - young sub-adults can usually leap clean out of the water by several feet, whereas larger adults have difficulty pushing more than their hind legs out of the water (see right) because of their increased weight. In reality, the heights achieved are probably similar, however - the larger the croc, the less of its body it needs to push out of the water to achieve the same height. C. rhombifer is also capable of jumping vertically on land - often several feet up into the air. The force comes mainly from the legs and through flexion of the neck and body. Other crocodiles can lift their heads up into air by flexing the body, but not nearly to the same extent. Larger C. rhombifer grow too heavy to be able to do this, however.


leaping saltwater crocodile Under natural conditions, vertical leaping is more common in juveniles than in adults. However, many species can be enticed to leap with the lure of food - a fact exploited by tourist attractions around the world which display crocodiles. There are even cruises in the Northern Territory of Australia which specialise in encouraging wild crocodiles to leap by the side of the boats to impress tourists.



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