We know alligators and crocodiles have successfully inhabited the earth for some millions of years. Both the species are known to ambush their prey by lying unmoved under the water waiting for the right time to attack. However, recently scientists have found a new predating method in these reptiles. The Mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris in India) and American alligators( Alligator mississippiensis in the USA) have been seen lying partially submerged in water, placing sticks on their snout to lure the birds close enough to be attacked.
Vladimir Dinets, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, leading the research found this behavior of the reptiles typically in the birds nesting season. The crocodile or alligator lie beneath the colonies of heron and egret with sticks, twigs on their head and snout. The birds in nesting season look for sticks to prepare their nest come close to these reptiles and become their meal.
Dinets studying the alligators near egret nesting sites, found the alligators displaying this behavior especially during egret breeding and nesting season from March to June. This once in year practicing eliminates the probability that the association of reptiles with sticks is mere coincidence or random. During nesting season, floating sticks are extremely rare to be seen as the tree surrounding the pool does not shed twigs at this time of the year and the available twigs are quickly collected by nest preparing birds. Therefore, the stick displaying behavior seems deliberate during a specific period of the year and the reptiles are mastering the act quite well.
Another comparative psychologist and an ethologist Gordon Burghardt, specializing in reptiles at UT-Knoxville said:
What’s really remarkable — they are not only using lures, but they are timing it to just when the birds they want to capture are nesting and looking for sticks to use.They are making some assessment of the birds themselves.
The study clears that the crocodiles and reptiles has the ability to observe and conclude that the birds like twigs and figured out at what part of the year birds are mostly indulged in twig collection i.e during nesting season. And for successful results used the ambush technique during nesting season only.
Earlier in history these reptiles were considered lethargic, boring or stupid, nevertheless, with more studies they it has been established that they were highly underestimated for their intelligence. On the contrast complex behavior like signaling, co-operating in hunts, intricate communications, adopting abandoned babies and rising of the baby by both the parents has been noticed. And may be such qualities has enabled the successful presence on the planet where so many animals got extinct.