A Modern Vegetarian Crocodile?

Some ancestors of modern alligators and crocodiles were vegetarians. This is the conclusion of scientists at the University of Utah who have studied teeth of relevant fossils.

Based on careful study of fossilized teeth, scientists Keegan Melstom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah have found that multiple ancient groups of crocodyliforms — the group including living and extinct relatives of crocodiles and alligators — were not the carnivores we know today. Evidence suggests that a veggie diet arose in the distant cousins of modern crocodylians at least three times.

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Could some modern crocodiles be vegetarians? Here’s one such claim:

Meet Babiya, Kerala’s ‘vegetarian’ crocodile who lives in a temple pond and loves rice

The Sri Anandapadmanabha Swamy temple in Kasaragod claims that she eats only the prasadam that is fed to her by an employee twice a day.

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What is prasadam?

… variantly spelled as Prasadam, Prasad and Prasada, is a material substance of vegetarian food that is a religious offering in both Hinduism and Sikhism. It is normally consumed by worshippers after worship.

Via Wikipedia (Link fail due to WordPress error in the WP app. Probably couldn’t handle the unusual “a”.)


There are different recipes, but it may contain rice, ghee (clarified butter), and sugar. At first, I thought this meant no protein. Could a crocodile survive on carbs and fats without protein?

Crocodiles are monogastric, exothermic, carnivorous reptiles. This implies that they have a high demand for protein and require optimum temperatures for their metabolisms to function at optimal levels necessary for growth … Energy and protein are required by the organism for maintenance, growth and/or reproduction (Staton et al. 1986), where energy is derived from carbohydrates, protein and fats. To prevent protein from being used as an energy source, sufficient energy should be supplied in the diet in the form of carbohydrates and fat.


So, yes, it seems they can, but then I realized that wild rice is a source of protein.

The current daily value (%DV) for protein [for humans] is 50 grams per day, and is a target meant for most people. Grains high in protein include cornmeal, kamut (wheat berries), teff, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, wild rice, millet, couscous, oatmeal, and buckwheat. Apr 29, 2019


However, current crocs don’t do as well on non-animal protein sources:

The poor performance of crocodiles on the lowest protein diet correlates with previous research indicating that crocodilians are unable to perform optimally when the majority of the diet’s protein is made up of vegetable protein sources.


As a final interesting point, do the people at this temple know a crocodile can live for weeks or even years without a meal?

A crocodile’s metabolism is so evolved that its body uses and stores nearly the entirety of the food it consumes. They can regularly go for months without food — and in extreme situations, crocodiles can live off their own tissue for up to three years.

Another interesting fact about crocodile eating habits is that their stomachs are more acidic than any other vertebrate. Thus, they can digest bones, horns and shells. In fact, those pieces act as “gizzard stones” to help grind up coarse food.

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It would be quite useful to only need to eat once per year. When I consider future more evolved humans, from say 10,000 years from now, this might be a feature we have by then genetically added to our biology.


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