Alligator Bumps

Most of us have seen programs on television about alligators and crocodiles, perhaps to the point of getting tired of them. Steve Irwin and his ilk have pretty well saturated us with facts about these ancient animals, and all of us have seen and heard stories about their strength and vicious nature. The next time you see a picture of one of these creatures, take a close look at the jaws and notice that there are some pimple sized bumps all over the animal's jaws. You might think that these are just ugly spots to make the animal more grotesque and frightening, but recent research has shown that these bumps are a highly sensitive system designed to help the animal eat and know what is going on around him.

When scientists studied these bumps, they discovered that the bumps are connected to a nerve called a trigeminal nerve which stimulates the skin and muscles of the face. These nerves travel through holes in the bones of the jaw called foramina that take the nerves to the brain. It was obvious to researchers that these bumps were not just cosmetic, but served a major function for the animal.

Experiments have now shown that the bumps on crocodilians are sensors that detect any change that happens in the water of the pond where the animal lives. When you put your finger into the water, the ripples that are sent out make the nerves in the bumps on the alligator's jaws fire and the animal comes to see what caused the ripples. When scientists cover the bumps with an insulating material and ripple the water the animal makes no response.

Humans have skin that tells us when the wind blows, when something touches us, and what the nature of the material touching us is. Alligators do not have skin like ours and have to have a whole different sensing system to tell them what is around them and to give them the ability to find their food. Who would have thought that the bumps we see on the animals would do that job for them? God has designed all living animals with all of the equipment they need to survive, and every time we learn of some new system that animals have we can see the wisdom and designing ability of our Creator.

--Reference: Smithsonian, May 2003 pages 22.

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