If your baby cries near you, do you instantly recognize the sound and respond? Even if you do, there’s a chance that a crocodile will reach your baby before you do.
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Science reports the results of a recent study conducted at a zoo in Morocco that houses over 300 Nile crocodiles. The scientists set up speakers around the enclosure and played sounds that baby primates, including human babies, make. Many crocodiles responded to the sounds by homing in on their sources. They were especially inclined to engage in urgent hunting if they heard human babies crying. Some crocodiles even bit the speakers in their feeding frenzy.
Why? The researchers speculate that human babies are likely to begin crying if dropped in the water and thus signal to crocodiles that easy prey has appeared.
The scientists also asked humans around the enclosure to evaluate whether the sounds represented crying babies. The crocodiles were generally better able to detect babies in distress than the humans.
But the humans, to their credit, did not respond to the sounds of crying babies with hunting and feeding behaviors. That’s probably a good thing.