Photo by Alida Jorissen
Crocodiles and relatives have shown high levels of sensitivity to external physical and chemical stimuli which is beneficial for various reasons. Highly sensitive mechano-receptors assist crocodilians in finding prey, especially in complete darkness, but are also useful in intra-specific interactions. For instance, mother crocodiles take their eggs when the young are ready to hatch and help them out by crushing the shells with their teeth.
“People wonder how that is possible; that an animal with such a powerful jaw is able to sense how much pressure it can apply to the shell without killing the baby,” remarked Professor Milinkovitch, who directs the Laboratory of Artificial and Natural Evolution (LANE) at the University of Geneva. “The answer is because they have this exquisite mechano-sensitivity since these micro-organs also exist within the jaw. The sensitivity of their jaws is equivalent to that of our fingertips.”