Study examines overlooked role fruit-eating crocodilians may play in forest regeneration

Aug 21, 2013
A new WCS-led study says American alligators (pictured) and 12 other crocodilians consume fruit, in addition to their usual meat heavy diets. Credit: Phillip "Scooter" Trosclair

It turns out that alligators do not live on meat alone. Neither do Nile crocodiles. A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that the American alligator and a dozen other crocodile species enjoy an occasional taste of fruit along with their normal meat-heavy diets of mammals, birds, and fish.

The study gives new insight into the possible role that crocodilians, some of which have large territories, may play in through digesting and passing seeds from fruits.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Zoology. Authors include: Steven Platt of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Ruth M. Elsey of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Hong Liu of Florida International University and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden; Thomas R. Rainwater of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; James C. Nifong of the University of Florida; Adam E. Rosenblatt and Michael R. Heithaus of Florida International University; and Frank J. Mazzotti of University of Florida.

The authors looked at 18 species of crocodilian ranging from the American alligator to the fearsome Nile crocodile and found 13 of the species consumed some form of fruit including a variety of berries, legumes, nuts, and grains.

While the authors say some of the fruit ingestion may have been incidental to prey capture, evidence shows that other fruit is consumed deliberately and in large quantities. Much remains to be learned about how crocodilians process carbohydrates and other plant-based nutrients, though studies suggests that fruit eating is likely to yield nutritional rewards for crocodilians.

"Although underreported, eating appears widespread among crocodilians," said the study's lead author, Steven Platt of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "Given the biomass of crocodiles in many subtropical and tropical wetlands and their capacity for ingesting large numbers of fruits, we consider it likely that crocodilians function as significant seed dispersal agents in many freshwater ecosystems."

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User comments : 8

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betterexists
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 21, 2013
I am sure Lions & Tigers can also be turned to reasonable Vegetarianism...From Meat to Boiled Meat to increasing quantities of boiled rice in Meat.....Finally to Boiled Rice alone...Same thing with Boiled Rice laced with Reasonable varieties of Fruits and suitable Boiled Vegetables in increasing quantities......All the time making sure food is sufficiently fortified with powdered Protein keeping the Nature & Health of the Animal well in Mind....How many weeks, months it takes to completely switch...Can't Imagine. Certainly Not Grass! Keep the Depressed Animal well in spirits.
Matthewwa25
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 21, 2013
Poor Crocodile. :(
betterexists
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 21, 2013
Particularly if the Animal has seen Milk alone....Not Even Meat-Eating Mother Lion at its Dinner Time. Just like we have all kinds of Computers, iPads. A Well- Educated Veterinarian can achieve this miracle, I suppose....A Meat-shunning Lion!
Gmr
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2013
While you might eventually be able to get a carnivore to subsist on fortified grains and so on, I personally have high doubts about developing a "meat shunning" lion.

My cats subsist on grains, yet this does not diminish their instinct to hunt. If anything you'd turn the lion from predator to murdering vegetarian.
betterexists
1 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2013
Much of the Instinct to hunt is for consuming food and the love for Meat as suggested by their parents only. That is why they do not consider their Masters as Food at least much of the time...may be as nuisance....as we do treat at times each other. Once they are made to dislike meat by adding pepper...too much of salt etc...they may lose much of their meat-eating & killer instinct, I Presume....Pepper & Salt Expt only for the wild cat that was trained to eat veggies only as suggested above...Well, Nature may always win and prevail, That is a different story!
Gmr
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2013
No. My youngest cat was abandoned prior to weaning - all of his hunting is instinct, not a jot of it taught. Even if he ate a vegetarian diet (he's close to it now) his hunting behavior is completely divorced from his appetite, and has no bearing on his hunger or satiety.

My cats consider me a large, slow and not very skilled member of the pride, which is why they don't eat me.

Some creatures are born predators. A change in diet doesn't affect the desire to hunt and kill. It isn't philosophical for them. It is deeply ingrained in being a cat. You take that away, it is a question of whether you actually have a cat in front of you anymore.
betterexists
1 / 5 (4) Aug 22, 2013
1 Point is Well Missed.
Domesticated House Cat let out periodically Learns hunting lizards, squirrels, frogs and what not from its Friends (Companions) on the Streets. Some Humans (1 sick in a Billion Normal) do hunt them with their Autos...Most of them I think are Accidents only.

No. My youngest cat was abandoned prior to weaning - all of his hunting is instinct, not a jot of it taught. Even if he ate a vegetarian diet (he's close to it now) his hunting behavior is completely divorced from his appetite, and has no bearing on his hunger or satiety.

My cats consider me a large, slow and not very skilled member of the pride, which is why they don't eat me.

Some creatures are born predators. A change in diet doesn't affect the desire to hunt and kill. It isn't philosophical for them. It is deeply ingrained in being a cat. You take that away, it is a question of whether you actually have a cat in front of you anymore.

Gmr
3 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2013
Except my cat is 100% indoor, partly due to stray dogs, partly for my concerns over local songbirds and wildlife. He hunts and kills cockroaches indoors.

Unless I taught him while sleepwalking, or he picked it up from television, the naive fantasy of "naturally pacifist" predators appears to be, at least anecdotally, without support.

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