At first glance, crocodiles don't exactly seem like romantic lovers. But a new study from Australia's University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC), which looks at the reptiles' expressions and "love language", dispels the prejudices. According to this, the males, among other things, squirt water from their noses, make hissing sounds and create water bubbles in order to impress their beloved. “And the females love it!” the university quoted the head of the study, Sonnie Flores, as saying.
In order to decipher the language of saltwater crocodiles, the researcher installed cameras and acoustic recording devices in the crocodile enclosures at Australia Zoo as part of the twelve-month project. The private zoo north of Brisbane was run for many years by TV star Steve Irwin, who became known worldwide with the series "Crocodile Hunter". Since his death in 2006, his widow and two children, Bindi and Robert Irwin, have continued to run the zoo, which is also the focus of the popular reality show "The Irwins".
The study found that females were more likely to growl, especially when guarding a nest, while males used their noses like a geyser. Ecologist Ross Dwyer compared the behavior to "whales coming to the surface and blowing a jet of water into the air." For male crocodile it is a form of courtship. "It's almost as if they were singing a love song to their partner in their enclosure before mating."
Crocodile Love Songs: Head as Drums
Some animals also used their heads as a kind of drum kit on the water. There is also a lot of communication going on beneath the surface of the water, said Dwyer. The new findings should help to better understand the behavior of animals - their movements, their relationships with each other, their ecology. "We can then use this information to support government and conservation strategies in dealing with these animals." In the future, artificial intelligence should also be trained to recognize the sounds of crocodiles and to better monitor the populations.
First of all, the recordings will contribute to the creation of a “crocodile dictionary”. "We discovered that crocodiles are probably a little more social and tolerant of each other than we thought," said Flores. This also raises questions about what impact removing a crocodile from its habitat has on the larger social hierarchy in the ecosystem. “So far we have only touched the tip of the iceberg,” the researcher is convinced.