Says the passage, In that country be a general plenty of crocodiles These serpents slay men and they eat them weeping.
Shaner and Vliet also found reference to crocodiles crying in scientific literature, but it was contradictory or confusing, to say the least.
One scientist, working early last century, decided to try to determine if the myth was true by rubbing onion and salt into crocodiles eyes. Shaner said. When they didnt tear up, he wrongly concluded it was false. As Shaner said, The problem with those experiments was that he did not examine them when they were eating. He just put onion and salt on their eyes.
As a result, Vliet decided to do his own observations.
In the myth, crocodiles often cry while eating humans. However, deadpanned Shaner, we were not able to feed a person to the crocodiles.
Instead, Vliet had to settle for the dog biscuit-like alligator food that is the staple at the St. Augustine alligator farm. He decided to observe alligators and caimans, rather than crocodiles, because they are trained at the farm to feed on dry land. Thats critical to seeing the tearing because in water the animals eyes would be wet anyway.
The farms keepers dont train the crocodiles to feed on land because they are so agile and aggressive, Vliet said. But he said he feels sure they would have the same reaction as alligators and caimans, because all are closely related crocodilians.
What causes the tears remains a bit of a mystery.
Vliet said he believes they may occur as a result of the animals hissing and huffing, a behavior that often accompanies feeding. Air forced through the sinuses may mix with tears in the crocodiles lacrimal, or tear, glands emptying into the eye.
But one thing is sure: faux grief is not a factor. In my experience, Vliet said, when crocodiles take something into their mouth, they mean it.
|Contact: Kent Vliet|
University of Florida