J.C. Nifong

Meet the "Crittercam."

The highly technical name for the device you see above is a "Crittercam," and it figured into a monitoring project that researchers conducted in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, located a stone's throw away from Cape Canaveral, Florida. James Nifong of the University of Florida and other scientists strapped these kinds of rugged cameras onto 15 gators. Then they set the reptiles loose to see how they hunted prey when humans weren't in their business.

The voyeuristic treasure the researchers recovered marks a "major step forward in not only furthering the understanding of crocodilian interactions in natural ecosystems, but also in providing valuable insight regarding the feeding behavior of an ecologically important apex predator whose cryptic nature has historically hindered such research," they said in a study just published in PLOS ONE. Among their insights:

The video footage revealed that time of day significantly affected the frequency of attacks on prey, as well as the probability of capturing prey. Alligators most often attempted to capture prey during the night, but the researchers' calculated probability of successful capture was highest in the morning and sequentially lower during day, evening, and night, respectively. Position in the water – submerged versus at the surface – also significantly affected prey-capture success, with two-fold greater capture rate when submerged while attacking prey.

You can see some of the Crittercam footage in the below sequence of a gator snatching prey and working its jaws. The sweet marsh-rock soundtrack appears to have been added by a fan:

Top image: J.C. Nifong / University of Florida

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A rendering of Quayside, the waterfront development now being planned for Toronto.
    Solutions

    A Big Master Plan for Google's Growing Smart City

    Google sibling company Sidewalk Labs has revealed its master plan for the controversial Quayside waterfront development—and it’s a lot bigger.

  2. a photo of commuters on Oakland's Bay Bridge.
    Transportation

    Can Waze Convince Commuters to Carpool Again?

    Google’s wayfinding company wants to help drivers and riders find each other on its navigation app—and ease traffic congestion along the way.

  3. Life

    McDonald's Restaurants Are America's Ultimate 'Third Places'

    Americans have fewer and fewer spaces to gather. That’s where nuggets come in.

  4. Anthony Bourdain in 2001, when he was still the chef-owner of Les Halles in New York City.
    Life

    Urbanists Could Learn a Lot From Anthony Bourdain

    The work of the acclaimed chef and writer, who has died at 61, provides a model for a truly inclusive urbanism based on the creativity of all human beings.

  5. Maps

    The Squirrel Census Answers a Question You Weren’t Asking

    How many squirrels live in New York City's Central Park? Finding the answer was surprisingly complicated.

×