Shedding Crocodile Tears

Tears shed by crocodile

When someone feigns sadness, they “shed crocodile tears” – a phrase that comes from an old myth that crocodiles cry while eating.

Do these scary-looking reptiles actually cry when they feed?

Studies have shown that crocodiles, scientifically known as Crocodylidae, actually do tear when they feed, but they are definitely not crying out of remorse. In fact it is a physiological response; a method of cleaning their eyes when they feed, especially on dry land.

There are also other possible explanations for the tears shed by the crocodiles. It could be related to the hissing and huffing behaviour that is often exhibited when feeding. This action of forcing air through their sinuses could possibly stimulate the tear glands to produce fluid. Another reason could be that the physical action of chewing results in the squeezing of tears out of the tear glands of the ferocious looking serpent. (The Naked Scientists, 2007)

Zoologist Kent Vliet from University of Florida have observed and recorded video footages of four caimans and three alligators which belong to the same family as the crocodiles. The footages were of these animals feeding on dry land at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida. Vliet observed that five out of the seven animals teared up as they started to rip their food apart and eat, with visible “frothing and bubbling” at their eyes. (University of Florida, 2007)

In the world of violence crocodiles live in, tears protect the eyes of these predators as they devour their prey.

Alligator with froth and bubbles seen at the eye (


Works Cited

The Naked Scientists. (2007, October 14). Crocs Cry Real Tears. Retrieved from The Naked Scientists:

University of Florida. (2007, October 4). No Faking It, Crocodile Tears Are Real. Retrieved from Science Daily: