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?
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web’s top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with. Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it’s interesting how far the blue “cluster” is from the […]
With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it’s drama you crave, but the Hillary […]
Geek Fuel is a subscription delivery service that caters to those of us that love comics, gaming, and general geek culture. Every month, Geek Fuel will assemble a box of goodies with a value of $50 or over. The specific items are a mystery, but you’ll always get an exclusive t-shirt not found anywhere else, a full […]
If you like to DIY and you like helicopters, you’re going to really love the Flexbot Hexacopter Kit. This copter blows traditional models out of the water: it includes everything you need to actually build your own hexacopter, and then pilot it like a pro, too.The construction is complicated enough to give you a challenge, […]
This week’s top deals from the Boing Boing Store range from lobster to wine to desk organization. 1. Get Maine Lobster (50% Off)With these discounted packages from Get Maine Lobster, you can experience the sweet, fresh flavor of world-renowned Maine lobster right at your own dinner table. There are four options to choose from, each at […]