Image Credit: Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Scientists have discovered that crocodiles and alligators have extremely sensitive touch sensors on their skin that are more sensitive to vibrations than human fingertips. This is surprising considering that the bodies of these reptiles are covered with hard protective scales. The sensors are called integumentary sensor organs or ISOs and appear as dark spots. A nerve bundle known as the trigeminal ganglia connects these spots to the animal's brain.
According to researcher Duncan Leitch, "We didn't expect these spots to be so sensitive because the animals are so heavily armored." The most sensitive ISOs were found near the mouth and teeth of the reptiles. This level of sensitivity around the mouth allows them to identify the prey that they catch. It also provides the sensitivity needed for female crocodiles and alligators to delicately pick up their eggs and young hatchlings with their mouths.
Learn more about this study, see: