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June 7, 2010

Crocodiles on the High Seas

One of the advantages of having a blog is that you get to write about things simply because they are ridiculously cool:
The mystery of how the world's largest living reptile -- the estuarine crocodile -- has come to occupy so many South Pacific islands separated by huge stretches of ocean despite being a poor swimmer has at last been solved by a group of Australian ecologists.

Publishing their new study in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology, they say that like a surfer catching a wave, the crocodiles ride ocean currents to cross large areas of open sea.

Many anecdotal accounts exist of large crocodiles being sighted far out to sea, but this is the first study to show -- using underwater acoustic tags and satellite tracking -- that estuarine crocodiles ride surface currents during long-distance travel, which would enable them to voyage from one oceanic island and another.

We're talking here about the monster cros from Australia. They can't feed at sea so they don't count as marine species -- they are river dwellers who have quite literally found an efficient way to get around. The scientists tracked one croc, a 12 footer, which traveled over 360 miles in a little over three weeks. A second one -- 16 feet long -- swam over 250 miles in 20 days. Mind you, these reptiles are poor swimmers -- they just find the ocean current and cruise. And they're smart enough to haul out when the tides and currents aren't favorable. Too cool.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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