And a little bad Science!
This is cool, unless you happen to be a nesting bird:
Dr Dinets and his colleagues spent a year observing alligators in Louisiana at two rookeries used by great egrets, snowy egrets, white ibis and spoonbills. Their findings are published in the journal Ethology, Ecology and Evolution.
They observed alligators collected twigs and balanced them across their snouts as they floated in the water.
This behaviour was only seen during the birds’ breeding season – between March and June.
The scientists claim the sticks were then used as lures to bring birds within striking distance of the alligators’ jaws.
Dr Dinets also reported similar behaviour witnessed by mugger crocodiles at the Madras Crocodile Bank near Chennai in India.
He said if birds got close enough the crocodiles would lunge for them.
All very cool. But then:
It is thought to be the first time reptiles have been found to use tools – something that was thought to be restricted to apes and intelligent birds such as crows.
The findings suggest that crocodiles and alligators are far more intelligent than has been previously thought.
No, it doesn’t suggest that at all, any more than their being brownish-green and lying very still suggests they’re smart. Over the course of the last 100 million years, some alligators happened to have a few twigs on their snouts as they floated motionless waiting for prey. Those twiggy alligators, as a whole, had a higher success rate staying fed over time, and therefore left more offspring than those who reflexively shook off the twigs – just like the well camouflaged and really patient ones did.
That they would then seek out twigs to put on their snouts by instinct when birds are nesting nearby is just vanilla evolution, the same sort of process by which wasps hunt particular caterpillars or bears fatten up for winter – doing so ‘works’ in the sense of promotes more offspring over the long run. This requires no more intelligence in the alligator than is possessed by the twigs.
But very cool. Not as cool as fire ants eating Burmese pythons, but cool.