A beautiful work of collaboration in nature
For the popular culture Crocodile tears (or pretended sympathy) is a false, insincere display of emotion such as cynic or hypocrite tears of grief or compassion.
Nevertheless, the metaphor for this human behavior has its roots on the observation of nature. It was an ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey.
One of the earliest literary references to this comes from the 14th century bestseller The Voyage and Travel of Sir John Madeville, where the author writes:
In that country and by all Inde be great plenty of cockodrills, that is a manner of a long serpent, as I have said before. And in the night they dwell in the water, and on the day upon the land, in rocks and in caves. And they eat no meat in all the winter, but they lie as in a dream, as do the serpents. These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.
Other such references to crocodiles being remorseful eaters can be found in both Shakespeare’s Othello and Henry VI plays. 1
As a matter of fact, crocodiles do have tear ducts, they weep to lubricate their eyes, typically when they have been out of water for a long time and their eyes begin to dry out.
However, evidence suggests this could also be triggered by feeding. Crocodiles bite down hard on their prey, this squeezes tears out of their tear ducts which creates the weeping effect.
Reaching lengths of more than 20 feets and weights over 2300 pounds, the saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile on the planet.
They have tongues, though it usually lies flat, making it appear more like the bottom of the mouth instead. They also have a lot of tooth tartar, but these reptiles, as most toothed fishes like sharks, renew their teeth as they get broken or decayed, so they seem not bothered with the bad oral hygiene.
But the most poetical example of collaborative work in nature is the astounding fact that butterflies and bees can also get inspired by the crocodile tears, they can drink them.
Sodium and some of those other micronutrients are hard to find in nature. Butterflies and bees consume nectar, and nectar does not have a lot of salt. But they still need salt for egg production and for their metabolism.
They can find a rich source of salt and micronutrients in the tears of crocodiles, caimans and alligators.
So, although not being true that crocodiles shed tears of compassion while attacking their prey, it can be true that their tears inspire and feed butterflies and bees.
Poetry comes from the highest happiness or the deepest sorrow.
1 – Today I Found Out – Feed your Brain – Crocodiles do really shed tears when they eat.