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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Science Note – Surfing Crocodiles

Air Date: Week of October 15, 2010

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Australian scientists track the world’s largest reptiles. As Meghan Miner reports, saltwater crocodiles really know how to catch a wave.

Transcript

MINER: Surfers aren’t alone in their love of riding waves. Ocean-dwelling crocodiles like to catch big water swells, too.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

MINER: Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s largest reptiles. They can be as long as 20 feet and weigh as much as 3,000 pounds! These massive beasts spend most of their time lounging in waters throughout the coastal Pacific, and have surprisingly little genetic diversity for such a large range.

Scientists have long wondered how these relatively poor swimmers travel to distant places. So Australian researchers in Queensland decided to monitor the creatures.

They tagged 27 saltwater crocs and tracked their positions for a year using sonar transmitters and underwater receivers.

And what they discovered is that these reptiles are not unlike their human counterparts when it comes to surfing the waves! The crocodiles use surface ocean currents and wait for the best conditions before catching a ride out to sea. And they have a good sense of direction- an earlier study found that these crocs were able to find their way back home after being relocated hundreds of miles away.

For years, mariners have reported spotting seeing these floating giants far from land, but now sightings can be validated. And, with all four claws paddling along in the water, these bulky behemoths really know how to “hang 20!”

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Meghan Miner.

 

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