Crocodile tears: Do crocodiles really shed tears? This is what research shows

By: |
May 28, 2021 2:44 PM

The conclusive research in 2006 has for now ended the debate and it was proved that crocodiles indeed weep while they eat as there is an aggressive movement in their jaws while they chew their food which stimulates their tear gland.

Out of the seven crocodiles, it was found that five of them developed moisture and bubbles in their eyes while eating while two others did not develop moisture in their eyes.

Shedding crocodile tears is often used as a taunt for someone whom we believe to be untrue in their feelings or exhibiting fake sorrow at something tragic. Where and since when did the use of crocodile tears creep into our daily conversations? According to an Indian Express report, the use of crocodile tears dates back to at least the 14th century when one Sir John Mandeville in his travel account named ‘The Voyage and Travel of Sir John Mandeville’ mentioned the species for its fake tears. Detailing his adventure to one of the dense forests where he encountered crocodiles, Sir Mandeville wrote that the species cried while devouring the men they hunted. The mention made by Sir Mandeville in the early 14th century stuck to the species forever. A couple of authors before Sir Mandeville had also mentioned the peculiar characteristic but since Sir Mandeville’s mention, the peculiar feature was endorsed by many authors notable among them being William Shakespeare.

Do crocodiles really cry while eating?
Physicians and scholars with a scientific bent of mind have long tried to understand whether there is any scientific basis to the peculiar saying. Swiss physician and naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer in the 18th century rejected the old saying and said that there is no solid scientific foundation to the claim. Another scientist George Johnson in the 20th century conducted an experiment during which he rubbed onion and salt over the eyes of the crocodile to check if it wept or not. When the crocodile did not weep, Johnson said that the notion of crocodile shedding tears was a myth.

So crocodiles don’t weep?

The research did not end and about 15 years back in the year 2006 neurologist D Malcolm Shaner and zoologist Kent A Vliet filmed a number of crocodiles to have conclusive proof of whether the species actually wept. The researchers also ensured that all the crocodiles are fed on dry land so as not to confuse the water of the lake with tears. Out of the seven crocodiles, it was found that five of them developed moisture and bubbles in their eyes while eating while two others did not develop moisture in their eyes.

The conclusive research in 2006 has for now ended the debate and it was proved that crocodiles indeed weep while they eat as there is an aggressive movement in their jaws while they chew their food which stimulates their tear gland, the researchers opined.

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