Crocodiles (from the Nile, in this case) react to music like mammals and birds in a very similar way by stimulating the same areas of the brain. This helps shed light on the process of evolution, since having existed for at least 200 million years, these reptiles are among the oldest species of living vertebrates. Being cold-blooded, they also exhibit a thermoregulation completely different to mammals and birds.
The study which demonstrated the Nile crocodiles’ reactions to different types of music, including pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, was carried out by an international team made up of researchers from Iran, South Africa, France and Germany. They encountered considerable technical difficulties in adapting their functional MRI equipment to the crocodiles’ anatomy, and afterwards in recording the test results.
Nevertheless, in the end they managed to create optimum conditions for very clear results: the areas of the brain stimulated by listening to music are similar to the reactions of mammals and birds, which demonstrates that this type of reaction is both primeval and that it been retained throughout evolution. Of course, it is difficult to understand what use this capacity for music sensitivity could serve in such primordial animals.
As the researchers reported in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences”, this type of study could be extended even to other animal species, in order to better reconstruct the evolutionary path of sensitivity to music, and its significance.