On terrestrial hunting by crocodilians
Abstract. For full text please see Herpetological Bulletin (2011) 114: 15-18.
Crocodilians are generally considered to be specialized ambush hunters of the water and the water edge. However, evidence collected during my field study of most extant crocodilians in 2005-2010 shows that adult crocodilians of large, omnivorous species regularly engage in ambush hunting far from water, usually at night along roads and trails. Such behavior is frequently practiced by American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and mugger (C. palustris), and has also been observed in black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), American (C. acutus), Orinoco (C. intermedius) and saltwater (C. porosus) crocodiles. Temperature measurements showed that this behavior was not thermoregulatory; it also wasn't related to migration. A few predation attempts, some of them successful, were observed, suggesting that this way of hunting is probably relatively effective. However, terrestrial hunting was never observed in juveniles or in smaller species, probably because smaller animals would themselves be subject of predation by terrestrial carnivores. Evidence shows that some of recent fatal attacks on humans by alligators in Florida occurred as a result of trailside ambushes.