GAINESVILLE, Fla. When someone feigns sadness they cry crocodile tears, a phrase that comes from an old myth that the animals cry while eating.
Now, a University of Florida researcher has concluded that crocodiles really do bawl while banqueting but for physiological reasons rather than rascally reptilian remorse.
UF zoologist Kent Vliet observed and videotaped four captive caimans and three alligators, both close relatives of the crocodile, while eating on a spit of dry land at Floridas St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
He found that five of the seven animals teared up as they tore into their food, with some of their eyes even frothing and bubbling.
There are a lot of references in general literature to crocodiles feeding and crying, but its almost entirely anecdotal, Vliet said. And from the biological perspective there is quite a bit of confusion on the subject in the scientific literature, so we decided to take a closer look.
A paper about the research appears in the latest edition of the journal BioScience.
Vliet said he began the project after a call from D. Malcolm Shaner, a consultant in neurology at Kaiser Permanente, West Los Angeles, and an associate clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Shaner, who co-authored the paper, was investigating a relatively rare syndrome associated with human facial palsy that causes sufferers to cry while eating. For a presentation he planned to give at a conference of clinical neurologists, he wanted to know if physicians general term for the syndrome, crocodile tears, had any basis in biological fact.
Shaner and Vliet uncovered numerous references to crocodile tears in books published from hundreds of years ago to the present.
The term may have gained wide popularity as a result of a passage in one book, The Voyage and Travel of Sir John Mandeville, first published in 1400 and read wide
|Contact: Kent Vliet|
University of Florida