The study involved a case in which a group of crocodiles "guided" a dog to safety
A new study discovered an unexpected friendship between crocodiles and dogs.
A recent report published by the Journal of Threatened Taxa looked at the behavior of marsh crocodiles (also known as muggers) in Maharashtra, India.
"Though crocodiles are generally stereotyped as lethargic and lacking social interactions except for territoriality, parental care, and prey ambush, they demonstrate discrete behavioral repertoire in a variety of situations suggestive of refined cognition," scientists explain in the report's abstract.
One case included in the report was that of a young dog who was assisted by three adult crocodiles after "straying beyond its territory." The dog caught the attention of three adult crocodiles while trying to find refuge in the deep waters of the Savitri River.
"At this time three adult Muggers were clearly seen floating close by in the water and their attention was drawn to this dog and they moved closer towards the dog," the scientists explain. Instead of attacking the animal, the crocodiles are said to have "guided" the dog to safety.
Although the scientists are not sure why the crocodiles chose to assist the pup instead of attacking, they add that the crocodiles "were actually touching the dog with their snout and nudging it to move further for a safe ascent on the bank and eventually escape."
The study explains that the case shows a "sentient behavior of the Mugger resulting in cross-species ‘emotional empathy.' " The scientists add that the behavior is one that is not "very extensively investigated" and is one that deserves recognition.
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"Crocodilians (Crocodiles, Alligators, Caimans, and Gharials) are arguably the most cognitively complex living non-avian reptiles," they wrote. "They display a rich behavioral repertoire in a variety of contexts; such as hunting, spatial orientation, and social interactions, including communication in several modalities."
Marsh crocodiles are found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal, according to the Wildlife Institute of India. An adult male can reach up to 4.5 meters (18 feet) in length and weigh 450 kg (1000 pounds), the institute notes.
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