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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Alligators and Crocodiles Use Tools Now, Apparently

Because, you know, they weren't dangerous enough already.

by: Ted Alvarez

Tricky tricky.  (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Tricky tricky. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the animal kingdom, crocodilians have an unfair advantage in the fear department. Witness:

1) Sharp teeth.
2) Cold, lifeless eyes.
3) Massive size.
4) 250 million years of accumulated “how to eat you” know-how.
5) Armor-like scales.
6) Death rolls.
7) Dear god, just LOOK AT THOSE TEETH AND EYES!

(Also: One just straight up made off with a python in the Everglades the other day. So there's that.)

But it just got even worse. New research shows that crocodilians like alligators and Indian mugger crocodiles (great name!) use tools to attract prey. Cry with me:

New research shows that alligators and crocodiles can use small sticks to attract birds looking for nesting materials. If the birds get too close, they become a meal.

Alligators only engaged in this trickery during the nesting season and in areas where birds nested, said Vladimir Dinets, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. During nesting season, there's often a shortage of sticks in marshy areas where these reptiles and birds overlap, and birds sometimes even fight amongst themselves to procure sticks to build nests.


Paddling the Everglades has always been high on my personal lifelist, but this new knowledge has me reconsidering. I feel fairly certain some enterprising gator will fashion a tent out of sticks on his snout—or perhaps a brewery entrance—and poof! It'll be curtains for ol’ Alvarez. No thank you, genius gators.

Read more: LiveScience

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