February 13, 2015
Crocodilian Courtship – Elvis and Priscilla
- as seen by -Kevin Torregrosa
A gentle nuzzle, a tender caress, and an intimate dance. The courtship of crocodiles, of course.
Crocodilians display some of the most complex social behaviors of any reptile. Recently, we were able to witness the gentle courtship of our resident Malaysian false gharials (Tomistoma schlegelii,) Elvis and Priscilla, at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo where they have lived as a couple since 1988.
Crocodiles display a wide range of behaviors, which can be observed in both males and females. To initiate courtship, the gharials approach and begin to rub their snout on the head of the other animal, which is called snout rubbing. If this advance is welcomed, the act will continue until both animals are caressing with their snouts along the entire body of their mate. Throughout this “dance,” other behaviors such as vocalizing and blowing bubbles through the snout to create a geyser may also be noticed.
Crocodiles are sensitive to touch and as a result their complex courtship appears to be especially intimate. We are lucky to have a pair of Malaysian false gharials that get along and are comfortable enough to go through this courtship ritual in their exhibit. This also means that our guests have the rare opportunity to see behavior that they may not otherwise witness. Next time you visit the Bronx Zoo’s Reptile House, be sure to check out Elvis and Priscilla. You may get a glimpse into the lesser known, gentle side of crocodilians.