If you are being chased by a crocodile, climbing a tree might not be the best idea! Crocodiles and alligators can climb trees as far as the crowns, scientists have found. Researchers from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are the first to study the tree-climbing and basking behaviour in reptiles. Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and colleagues observed crocodilian species on three continents — Australia, Africa and North America — and examined previous studies and anecdotal observations.

They found that four species climbed trees — usually above water — but how far they ventured upward and outward varied by their sizes.

The smaller crocodilians were able to climb higher and further than the larger ones. Some species climbed as far as four meters high in a tree and five meters down a branch.

“Climbing a steep hill or steep branch is mechanically similar, assuming the branch is wide enough to walk on,” researchers said.

“Still, the ability to climb vertically is a measure of crocodiles’ spectacular agility on land,” they said.

The crocodilians seen climbing trees were skittish of being approached and jumped into water when an approaching observer was as far as 10 metres away.

Researchers believe that the tree climbing and basking are driven by two conditions: thermoregulation and surveillance of habitat.