PIC OF THE MONTH


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Father and Sons

Siamese croc dad with young

The first reported observations of a female crocodile opening her nest and carrying her newly-hatched young down to the water in her mouth were greeted not with amazement, but with disbelief and a fair degree of scorn. It was popularly thought at the time that a female crocodile paid no attention to her young once she had built the nest. Observations of her carrying young in her mouth were interpreted as cannibalistic behaviour - a tasty snack after two and a half months of waiting for them to hatch.

These days, most of us have seen spectacular footage of females opening their nests on television. Even so, the accompanying narration often gives the impression it is surprising behaviour for one of nature's "merciless killing machines". But in fact, the more we study crocodilian behaviour, the more incredible these animals become to us. Whilst no Einstein, your typical crocodile shows a wide repertoire of often complex social behaviour, and frequently surprises the most seasoned crocodilian researchers.

Although parental care is normally the domain of the adult female, in some species the male is associated with parental care to some degree. This month's Pic of the Month comes from John Brueggen, the general curator at the St Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida, and their siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) recently produced a clutch of eggs. After opening the nest and transporting the hatchlings to water, the male and female are now sharing parental duties as they guard the creche of hatchlings for the first few weeks of their life. Whilst many crocodilian species will often cannibalise juveniles which are not their own, the parents put a significant amount of time and energy in maximising their offspring's survival. It's not easy being a small crocodile - nearly everything is out to eat you - but at least with both mum and dad around life is made a little easier.


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