Some scientists played Bach to a Nile crocodile because why not

11 May 2018, 12:28

Nile crocodile
Nile crocodile. Picture: Getty

By Elizabeth Davis

Have you ever wondered what would happen in a crocodile’s mind if it were to listen to some of the music by the great composer J.S. Bach? Well, us neither to be honest. But we’re glad someone did

Crocodiles are, evolutionarily speaking, some of the most ancient animals on the planet. They’re also the closest existing relatives of modern birds.

And that makes them very interesting to scientists. And one set of scientists in particular.

“Crocodiles count among the most ancient species of vertebrates and have barely changed over the space of more than 200 million years,” one of the researchers, Mehdi Behroozi, told Digital Trends.

“Accordingly, they constitute a link between dinosaurs and bird species today. Analyses of crocodile brains thus provide deep insights into the evolution of the nervous system in mammals and may help us understand at which point certain brain structures and behaviours associated therewith were formed.”

The crocodiles were borrowed from La Ferme aux Crocodiles in Pierrelatte in France and housed in a zoo in Germany for the project.

The animals were then lightly sedated (because there was always the possibility they had a violent dislike of Bach), and placed in an MRI scanner.

The scanners monitored ‘blood oxygenation level-dependent signal changes’ when the crocodiles were shown a series of visual stimuli and played first simple audio and then complex audio – which in this case was Bach. And his Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in particular.

Birds produce complex audio of their own – so scientists know that they have specialized areas of the brain to process complex audio. But what they didn’t realise is that crocodiles have that too:

“We were baffled when we saw how similar the crocodile brain activity was in comparison to birds when we played classical music to them. Sure, given the fact that birds produce quite sophisticated ‘music’ on their own, one can assume that they have specialized brain areas to process complex sounds. But we did not expect that crocodiles have areas which look and seem to work so similar.”

TL;DR: Crocodiles can enjoy Bach.