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Sight Hearing Smell Taste & Touch
Crocodylian senses are well developed in each and every area. The crocodylians don't really seem to discriminate too much between each sense like dogs and humans do.


Crocodylian eye

Crocodylians have the typical vertebrate eye, being a large spherical eyeball enclosing the light sensitive retina. But there are a couple advances in the eyes of crocodylians. One such advance is the vertical pupil. This pupil can be found in cats, most geckos, vipers and other nocturnal (active at night) animals. A vertical pupil limits the amount of light coming into the eye far better than a spherical pupil. Since crocodylians are nocturnal animals that are adapted to seeing in the dark with it's very limited amount of light it helps to limit the amount of daylight coming in, seeing as how too much could overload the senses and cause blindness. Now of course a vertical pupil isn't very helpful at night when you want an eye that can take in as much light as possible so the crocodylian eye (like other nocturnal vertebrate eyes using vertical pupils) dilates (opens) as far as it can, covering most of the iris and allowing maximum usage of available light. Pretty sweet eh?
But wait there's more. Along with the pupil's ability to dilate to that extreme crocodylians along with most nocturnal animals have a special reflective layer of tissue that lies behind the retina. It's known as the tapetum lucidum and it works like this:
The cells in the tapetum contain guanin crystals, which form a mirror-like layer reflecting most of the incoming light back through the light receptor cells of the eye. So any incoming light that is missed by the retina is reflected back on it which allows the crocodylians to see twice as good as an animal lacking such a layer (say a human). Another secondary, yet nonetheless interesting effect of the tapetum lucidum is that when a person shines a light on an animal that has this layer, the eyes will reflect the light back and it will look like the animal's eyes are glowing. (Note: This effect no doubt helped contribute to the "crocodiles are evil monsters" scenario)
Another interesting thing about crocodylian sight is that even though crocodylians are mostly night animals, they can still see in colour. This is bigger than one might think. You see in most night animals (especially mammals), having colour vision is pretty useless at night where colour doesn't show up. So colour vision is usually lost or in the case of most mammals never developed. Yet crocodylians have cones (which allow us to see colour) which means that they have colour vision. No one is real sure how well developed this is and it might be an evolutionary left over from a time when crocodylians were terrestrial hunters.
When going underwater the eye is covered by a nictitating membrane (which is a fancy way of saying clear eyelid) which allows the animal to see underwater. The membrane, although clear, is usually a bit cloudy underwater and crocodylian vision is impared. But, it doesn't seem to matter much as these animals are quite capable underwater.


Hearing in crocodylians is well developed also. Even though crocodylians like most reptiles (including birds), lack any external ear coverings (called auricles of which mammals seem to be the only ones) they still have a well developed sense of hearing. There is a movable flap near the external ear opening of crocodylians which is used to keep water from entering the inner ear. Crocodylians are also very vocal animals that have sounds ranging from sub-sonic adults to ultra-sonic hatchlings. The hearing in crocodylians is able to pick all this up, which is very amazing and more wide ranging then most animals.


Crocodylians have a great sense of smell. Their olfactory nerve endings lie in nasal cavities that open into paried nostrils placed on top near the front tip of the upper jaw. Crocodylians seem to have a whole set of chemical signals that we at the moment don't seem to know too much about. There was a test on baby alligators that had juveniles responding to the airborne ofors from an adult male's cloaca. What these mean is not yet understood.

Taste & Touch

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much information regarding these two senses, but field observations have shown that crocodylians are sensitive to touch and enjoy "fondling" eachother with their mouths and bodies during the mating season.

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