The Death Roll

An alligator uses the death roll to remove the back leg of a zebra. Image courtesy of

Crocodilians are an order of reptiles that have been around since the cretaceous period. Most Crocodilians display a behavior known as the "death roll" during normal feeding, in which they use rapid longitudinal body rotations to remove flesh from their prey. This behavior is also called" rotational feeding" or "torsion feeding." While Crocodilian bite force is very strong, they do not have teeth that are adapted to tearing or cutting. But their skulls are evolved in such a way as to withstand a tremendous amount of torsional force, thus enabling them to do far more damage to prey using death roll techniques than they would otherwise have been able to inflict. This behavior aides in both killing and maiming prey and in removing pieces of flesh from already subdued prey that would otherwise be to large to ingest. A video of this behavior can be seen here. It is a behavior primarily seen in water, but there are also examples of the death roll on land.

In order to describe our animal's behavior, we have broken down our web page into 4 main subpages, which correspond to Tinbergen's 4 category explanation of behavior, seen below

Image credit Suzy Renn