A new study has been performed on adult Nile crocodiles and caimans, which shows that sleep is restless for crocodiles, who go to bed with one eye open.
There is an old saying in Australia, land of weird things with many legs that want to bite or poison you, that crocodiles sleep with one eye open. And it remained just a saying until now, when it has been proved by science, in a new research.
The research was conducted at the La Trobe University and its findings are very interesting. It seems as though crocodiles do indeed never fully go to sleep. When they feel the need to do so, they only shut half their brain off and leave the other half on, so that they can be alerted if something is happening in their surroundings.
This kind of behavior has also been registered for other animals, such as dolphins or birds. Marine animals use this technique to make sure they stay together even when they sleep and that they do not drift off. Birds like to keep one eye open for any possible predators.
And, apparently, this is the reason crocodiles do it too. They were observed to use the unilateral brain sleeping technique when humans were around. The animals used for this study have been observed in captivity, using infrared technology, which means that humans were always more or less around, and the crocodiles could feel them. This is what caused the prehistoric giants to sleep with one eye open.
Researchers now indicate that it is never, if it ever was, a good idea to try to sneak up on a crocodile. This actually means, in more serious terms, that it is still dangerous to be close to a crocodile, even it appears to be sleeping, because we now know they have the ability of shutting just half their brain off if they want to.
The results of the study are important not only because it reinforced our idea that crocodiles are not to be messed around it, but also because it can tell us a lot about the evolution of sleep. Since there are quite a few species that only sleep with half a brain, besides crocodiles, such as dolphins, turtles, lizards and birds, maybe the way human beings and land-based mammals are doing it is the wrong way, scientists have asked themselves.
It does seem a lot more logical to keep an eye out for predators, even when you are sleeping, if your body and your brain allow it. It would also be interesting to find out if we were ever able to do it and, if not, what made us so comfortable as to think we can totally disconnect while sleeping, because nothing will ever happen to us?
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