Crocodiles love to have fun. A recent study reveals that although crocodiles are mostly defined as aggressive and physically intimidating creatures, they also exhibit playful relations and good-natured social interactions, not only with their own kind but also with river otters and humans. The study has been published in the journal Animal Behavior and Cognition and was led by Dr. Vladimir Dinets, a researcher from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Dinets reached the conclusion by analyzing the combination of his own observational research regarding the general crocodilian communication and other reports associated with the play behavior of crocodiles. Dinets stated “Many aspects of crocodilian behavior remain poorly known due to their rare occurrence and to the difficulty of observing predominantly nocturnal predators. In the case of play, an additional problem appears to be that people witnessing such behavior consider their observations unworthy of publishing or unlikely to be taken seriously.”
Three different types of play behaviors of crocodiles have been described in the study including locomotor play, object play and social play. The observations include young captive crocodiles repeatedly sliding down slopes into water, chasing each other in the water, swimming into showers from small waterfalls and pushing around balls and floating vegetation while swimming. Dinets commented “In many cases this behavior appears to be accidental, but on two occasions I have seen crocodilians doing this in a manner strongly suggesting play. In both cases, the objects were pink Bougainvillea flowers that were floating in the pools where the animals were kept captive.”
The study also suggests that small pink objects generally attract crocodilians. They, in fact, prefer pink objects for biting and manipulating over other similar objects having other colors. Dinets also mentioned that in Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, an American alligator was observed playing with river otters for several days. Dinets added “On one occasion an otter slipped on a steep bank of the bayou and was grabbed across the chest by the alligator. The alligator retreated from the bank and pulled the wriggling otter underwater as if attempting to drown it, but after about 5 seconds raised its head and released the otter, apparently unharmed. The interactions between this alligator and the otters then continued for two more days.”