Vizible’s Blog

Feign Death

Posted in Knowledge by wearetherock on March 4, 2008


Animals that feign death will attract scavengers, rather than deterring them. Grass and hog-nosed snakes feign death to avoid being killed. The hog-nosed snake lies on its back, with its tongue hanging out. This is often called ‘playing possum’ after the behaviour of the North American opossum. Downer (1999) said that when a predator threatens a North American opossum, the opossum tries bluff, hissing loudly and displaying its teeth. If this fails to impress, it falls on its side and lies still, eyes half open with its mouth in a rictus grimace of death. The opossum defecates and emits a foul-smelling green gunge from its anal glands. This makes it appear dead and rotting. The opossum stays conscious and checks on its performance. It may stay limp for an hour. When the coast is clear, it raises its head slowly, checks that the predator has gone and then runs away.

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