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?
Neglected public payphones in New York City are being turned into “GuyFi” stations: a place where one can rub one out for the sake of “stress relief.” Annalee Newitz reports on the wank booths from a company named “Hot Octopus”… The company reported that at least 100 men used the booth on its opening day […]
You’d be forgiven for thinking the videocassette format long-dead, but it turns out that Betamax is still around. Sony is finally going to withdraw tapes from sale, bringing a 40-year story to an end. The last recorders were sold in 2002. ベータビデオカセットおよびマイクロMVカセットテープ出荷終了のお知らせ [Sony; via The Verge]
A leaked Comcast memo discloses that the company’s consumer data caps have nothing to do with network congestion, contrary to its public claims. The internet service provider has often complained (such as when lobbying against net neutrality) that it must impose limits on service to prevent network congestion. The argument suggests that these measures are […]
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Remember back to the time when people thought java was just a hip way to talk about coffee? Or you vaguely remembered from geography class that it’s an island in the South Pacific? We’ve come a long way since then and now that we’ve rocket blasted into the tech future, you’re going to need to […]
Plastic is so 2013. You don’t want to buy something only to throw it away or lose it and barely care. You like nice things and want to hang onto them. The Plazmatic lighter here is a high quality, high tech alternative to the typical cheap, plastic lighter you get at the old gas station. […]