Why do some animals play dead when threatened by a predator? The commonly held belief is that many animals including snakes, bison, chickens, rabbits, and, of course, opposum act dead to discourage those who would eat them. Recent research suggests that this isn't always the case. For example, the Parachromis friedrichsthalii
fish acts dead in order to hunt. Smaller fish move in to take a nibble and wham! Other animals, such as hognose snakes, do exhibit what scientists call "tonic immobility" upon sensing a predator, sometimes delivering an Oscar-worthy performance. From Science News:
When a hognose snake that's facing a predator flips belly-up, its mouth opens and stays agape, sometimes oozing drops of blood. And the snake defecates or otherwise releases an unappetizing smell. "It's spectacular," says Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Grossly dead as the animal may look, Burghardt and Harry Greene, now at Cornell University, found that it's paying attention. Even snakes just 2 weeks old resurrect themselves sooner when a nearby human is looking away from them rather than directly at them.
Europe's grass snake puts on an even more realistic death act, says Patrick Gregory of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. When he caught his first grass snake years ago in France, it went limp. "I thought I'd accidentally killed it," he says. A death-feigning grass snake stays in character, not flopping back to its original position after it is turned over.
The relationships among the great range of freezing behaviors have yet to be clarified. "I see them as part of a continuum," Burghardt says.
Many questions remain: Are some of the activities seizures? A mental meltdown in response to disorientation? And how do some feigners remain conscious of vital details such as the gazes of observers?
Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
Some people say magic tricks are nerdy and best left to your 12-year-old asthmatic cousin. But others see value in perfecting the slight of hand and showmanship associated with a perfectly executed routine. We’re firmly in the latter camp. And now, we’re giving you the ability to put a few parlor tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin […]
Bluetooth speakers may be convenient to use, but many of them just aren’t that powerful. Sure, it may be fine if you’re seated in front of the speaker. But move across the room, and you may strain to hear what’s coming from those tiny drivers.There’s a reason why the G-BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Boombox (now $79.99 in the Boing […]
If you’re working to build your web programming knowledge, you know you have a lot of ground to cover. With literally dozens of languages, platforms and environments available to coders, mastering all those technologies can be a daunting task.Up-and-coming coders can start learning some of the most fundamental programming study areas with this Web Hacker course bundle – and […]