Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mauled and mortified

I probably don't have to tell you to be afraid of crocodiles and their relatives. I'm sure you have the sense to be wary of crocodilians even without reading recent research proving that saltwater crocodiles have the strongest bite of any living animal.

You probably also know enough to stay away from gharials - that crocodilian with the incredibly skinny snout - even without knowing that the same research shows that their delicate-looking jaw can bite just as hard as that of its stockier-looking relatives.

And you're probably afraid enough of modern crocs without knowing that their ancestors were the most dangerous biters even when dinosaurs walked the earth. The same scientist devised a way to calculate the bite strength of extinct animals, and concluded that ancient crocs bit harder than a T. rex.

So you know these creatures are dangerous. But recent news shows that an attack by these animals can also be extremely embarrassing:

-In Uganda, a crocodile recently chewed off a man's buttocks.

-We all hope for a more dignified death than the Indonesian man who was killed by a croc while pooping on a river bank.

-And in Zimbabwe, a man wading across a river "had his testicles and part of his manhood torn into shreds" by a croc. He only escaped with his life by dropping a box of tomatoes he was carrying, distracting the animal.

Of course, what these examples also show is you're most likely to get yourself bit in an unmentionable place by a croc if you are using poor judgment. The Ugandan "reportedly jumped into the lake to evade law enforcement officials." And that poor emasculated fellow told reporters that he was wearing only his underwear because he had had taken off his pants so they wouldn't get wet.

Dry pants, or an extra layer of protection for your most delicate organs? The choice is apparently not as obvious as I would have thought. Yes, these animals are bad - so let's make sure we have our priorities straight around them, OK?

Don't underestimate the absurd-looking snout of the gharial in that photo by Flickr user Chris Gray.

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