Alligators and Crocodiles Have Acute Sense

Alligators and Crocodiles Have Acute Sense

When you hear the word alligator or crocodile, the last thing to come to your mind is sensitivity. However, a Vanderbilt University study shows that alligators and crocodiles’ sense of touch is vastly more sensitive than ours. Crocodiles and alligators have some of the most acutely sensitive skin in the animal kingdom, new research has found. Though their thick bumpy armored looking skin is immediately recognizable, it may not be obvious at first that so much of their predatory super-awareness derives from the structure of their skin and its exceptional sensitivity.

It is easy to look at an alligator and think that their tough skin would be nearly impervious to touch. In fact, their skin is more like armor than anything. Amazingly, they possess these pigmented spots that look like tiny domes all over their skin. These spots are called integumentary sensor organs (ISO’s). For years, these spots were a mystery. Many believed that these spots produced some sort of oil to help protect the skin. Others believed that they were sensitive to electromagnetic pulses, or possibly were sensitive to changes in water’s salinity. A 2002 study at the University of Maryland however, showed that these spots were sensitive to ripples made by water drops. This intrigued Ken Catania, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt, enough that he began studying the function of these ISO’s even further.

It appears that these ISO’s are linked to a nerve bundle  which is quite similar to the ones we humans have called trigeminal ganglia. They are so sensitive that they can detect the ripple that a drop of water produces on the surface. They can also detect pressures that even the human fingertip can’t detect. This only serves to make them even better predators. The largest concentrations of these sensors appear to be around the mouth near the teeth. The same sensors that enable their deadly accuracy also serve the mothers as they gently assist their eggs in hatching as well as, carrying their young in their mouth without crushing them to death. Never let it be said that these fearsome creatures don’t have a softer and more sensitive side

The researchers concluded that the crocodilian’s touch system is unique and very highly-developed. The system allows a rich awareness of their watery environment, and any potential prey in the area. It also helps them to determine the exact location and structure of the prey that they are in contact with, leading to very fast and accurate attacks.

It is also helpful for the manipulation of non-food objects in their jaws, such as when carrying their young and may be necessary for female alligators and crocodiles, as part of their parental behavior includes “delicately” breaking open their eggs when they are ready to hatch. And transporting their young within their jaws to keep them out of the reach of predators. These are the same jaws that can close with the force of more than 2,000 psi, so their highly developed awareness may even be a necessity to avoid injuring their young.

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  1. WOW! that's a lot of information! Thanks for the education today.

  2. I had no idea about any of this.. thank you for haring it!

  3. Really, I dint know about it. Thanks for sharing!