November 11, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Vicious Crocodile Attacks Helpless Fruit

An evolutionist was surprised to find wild crocodiles eating fruit.  He has a lesson for scientists.

A short video clip on The Conversation shows a crocodile at the zoo catching a watermelon with its gaping mouth and instantly smashing it in its powerful jaws.  The article, from a blog by Jon Tennant (PhD candidate in vertebrate macroevolution at Imperial College London), shows that zoologists were not aware that crocodiles routinely eat vegetation, including fruit – not just because meat can be scarce at times, but because they actually enjoy it.  Studies of their droppings reveal seeds, grasses and fruit.  A second video clip shows a wild crocodile sneaking up to a tree and surrounding the helpless fruit with its nasty teeth.

Tennant used this unexpected observation to advise scientists to look at nature from a different perspective:

The study reveals something interesting about the way scientists might operate. Crocodiles are obligate carnivores – their primary diet is meat – and as such, fruits are often classed as anomalous food items when found in their stomach and not considered in a physiological context. This mainstream view may have led to the ignorance that feeding on fruits could help their diet and energy balances.

That the review study picked up so many independent instances of crocodiles feeding on fruit and having ingested seeds is solid evidence for this. It shows that sometimes stepping back and taking a broad look at evidence can reveal some interesting things.

Tennant speculated on why crocodiles would seek fruit in their diet.  “Perhaps this odd phenomenon might help in part explain why crocodiles are such successful animals,” he said. “If meat was ever in short supply, they had the capacity to diversify and track down other food sources, from vegetation and grasses.

Documentary cameramen love to go for the violent, dramatic shots portraying survival of the fittest: the crocodiles picking off desperate wildebeest crossing an African river.  Shots of a crocodile nibbling fruit off a tree are not likely to make the final cut.  Viewers might have noticed that multiple TV shows seem to film from the same locations.  Maybe it’s because there’s a fast food restaurant nearby for the crew, or it’s conveniently located near a road or helicopter service.  What really goes on in the wild where animals don’t routinely encounter humans?

The article calls crocs “obligate carnivores” but doesn’t say whether they could thrive on vegetation and invertebrates if they had to (consider that hippos with similar gaping mouths are herbivores).  Biblical creationists believe all animals were vegetarian before the Fall.  This article lends some support for that, but cannot prove it – nor can any observation of current phenomena, because the world changed.  It does, though, provide a convincing demonstration of another point: scientists interpret nature through a lens: the meat in a crocodile’s diet is “obligate,” but the fruit is an “anomaly.”  Could that be backward?  “Some interesting things” can be overlooked from a biased perspective.  Yes, scientists need to sometimes step back and take a broad look at evidence.


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