Crocodile tears: does the crocodile cry?

Crocodile tears … here is a formula that is already found in theantiquity. With the longest jaw powerful from the animal kingdom, the reptile can kill a mammal as large as the buffalo. Because carnivorous and ferocious, it would be incapable of cry ? Would his prehistoric breastplate hide a sensitive being? Crocodile tears, an expression that sails between myth and reality.

What the expression “crocodile tears” means

To shed crocodile tears means to cry so hypocritical to move those around them, to complain of an evil for to trick others and get something in return. The person who is credited with crocodile tears is suspected of faking his grief, without feeling the slightest pain. Is the giant reptile capable of displaying a facade of sadness?

Crocodile tears … from the Nile

Being able to measure up to 6 meters in length and weigh 1 ton, the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus Laurenti) is one of the most big reptiles currently living on Earth. It is hardly surprising then that the mastodon fed all kinds of legends in the territories covered today byEgypt. One of his fables dating back toantiquity tells that the Nile crocodile had a singular strategy to attract its prey: pretending to moan with sadness, it attracted sensitive souls who then approached to inquire about the reasons for their grief. The super predator had only to open his mouth and bite the naive people who let themselves be moved.

The very first crocodile tears

In the first century AD, a proverb attributed to Plutarch compares to a crocodile the person who hopes or causes the death of someone, while publicly sympathizing for him. But the first attestation of this expression, at sense where we hear it today, date of the IVe century in a sermon by the theologian Asterios the Sophist who encourages Christians in Lent to behave like a crocodile repentant, to imitate “the crocodiles of the Nile who, it seems, lament over the heads of the men they have devoured and weep over their heads. crime. ”

Tears in the time of … cocodrille

In the XIVe century a poem in Latin verse (the author of which would be a certain Pamphile-Maurilien) evokes the love between Pamphile and Galatea in these terms: “While the crocodile pours tears, he is about to destroy with a bloody mouth. At that time, we spoke of tears of cocodrill (Old French), term from Low Latin cocodrillus, before becoming a crocodile. The behavior of the saurian was then taken up in the bestiaries medieval, telling that the crocodile weeps after eating the man.

Yes a crocodile can cry

To the legend that the crocodile tenderizes its prey by feigning grief, is added the theory scientist that he would be able to cry. These reptiles indeed have glands lacrimal which allow them in particular to lubricate their eyes by blinking them. This reflex occurs, for example, when they remain out of the water for a long time. However, tears were also observed in animals during thefood. Researchers have established that the tear glands of some crocodilians exhibit the same neuromotor circuits as their glands salivary and gastric. Thus, during the meal, salivation would activate at the same time as the tears.

Crocodile tears: myth or reality?

As we have just seen, the behavior of a crocodile which cries while eating owes nothing to a state of sadness but to a mechanism physiological. On the other hand, you should know that this reaction only concerns american alligators whose jaw shape puts pressure on the lacrimal glands. For information, the “syndrome crocodile tears ”is the popular name for a condition called“ taste-lacrimal reflex ”or“ Bogorad syndrome ”. Affecting humans, this disorder manifests itself by secretion profuse tears when chewing. In question: the nerves which normally activate a salivary gland, will innervate the lacrimal gland.

The crocodile’s tears, sources of inspiration

Whether the phrase “crocodile’s tears” stems from legends or scientific truth, it doesn’t matter. The crocodile is one of those animals mythical whose power it releases and fear that it gives rise to have inspired many authors through the ages: in the XVIe century with Shakespeare in Othello: “O demon! Devil ! If a woman’s tears could fertilize the earth, every tear she drops would make a crocodile! “Until XXe century, in the verses of the French poet Jacques Charpentreau : “On the banks of the Nile in exile; Why is this saurian crying? It is because he has easy tears; The crocodile that bites Odile… ”