How often do crocodiles eat fruits

Crocodiles turn out to be fruit-eaters

No dangerous carnivores: crocodiles and alligators also have an appetite for meatless food. They eat nuts, berries, vegetables or grass seeds more frequently than previously thought, as US researchers have now found out. At least 13 of the 18 reptile species examined turned out to be fruit-eaters, including the Nile crocodile and various alligators, according to the researchers in the journal "Journal of Zoology".

Crocodiles and alligators were previously considered obligatory carnivores. Lurking in the water or on the banks of rivers and water holes, they usually hunt everything that comes before their mouth - fish, birds, small mammals and even young wildebeest, zebras or other prey that is almost larger than themselves strong teeth, they then grab their victims and drag them into the water to kill them there. According to common doctrine, however, vegetable food was not part of their menu. “It was assumed that these reptiles could not digest plant proteins and starch at all,” explain Steven Platt of the Wildlife Conservation Society and his colleagues.

Preference for fleshy fruits

The researchers have now checked whether this is actually true in a study. To do this, they sifted through previously published studies on 18 crocodile species and looked for evidence of fruit residues in their stomach or intestines and for reports on reptiles that had been observed eating plants.

And they actually found what they were looking for: “We discovered evidence of eating fruit in 13 of the 18 species,” report the researchers. In addition to nuts and berries, it also included various other fruits and vegetables. Overall, the menu of crocodiles and alligators comprised 46 different types of plants, with meaty fruits accounting for 52 percent.

On purpose and in large quantities

This result suggests that this behavior is quite widespread within crocodiles, the researchers state. In some cases it was more likely that the fruit got into the stomach of the reptiles with their prey. But there is sufficient evidence that most crocodile species deliberately and in large quantities eat plant foods.

However, this could mean that crocodiles could have an ecological function in their habitat that was previously neglected for them: "Because crocodiles mostly inhabit large territories and can undertake long migrations, the seeds of the fruits they eat are likely to spread widely through them," explains Platt. Given the large amount of fruit they eat, they could be important distributors for these plants. “Little is known about what happens to the seeds that the crocodile ingested. But it is likely that they will be excreted with the faeces and then be able to lash out again at the new location, ”said the researchers. (Journal of Zoology, 2013; doi: 10.1111 / jzo.12052)

(Wildlife Conservation Society, 23.08.2013 - NPO)

23rd August 2013