There is a natural order to things, a set of immutable rules that all beasts must adhere to: The strong eat the weak, the fast catch the slow, the early bird gets the worm, don't fuck with the honey badger, never go to Australia without life insurance, and so on and so forth. But just like with humans, some animals refuse to play by the rules ...
5Stoats Exploit a Glitch in the Rabbit Matrix
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Stoats employ an ingenious hunting tactic, carefully refined over countless millennia, and it goes like this: They flip the fuck out.
When a stoat encounters a rabbit, its natural prey, the standoff is intense. The bunny is both instinctively wary of and much faster than the stoat in a straight-out chase, but if the predator gets close enough to its prey, it can strike faster than the rabbit can run. There's a small moment of opportunity between when the rabbit registers the stoat as a threat and when it bolts. In that moment, the stoat goes methodically, scientifically nutbar. It starts jumping, twisting, rolling, and flopping around at complete random. The jerky movements are somewhere between "stop, drop, and roll" and "the worm," as performed by an octopus in the middle of an aneurysm.
But with every confusing twitch and convulsion, the stoat inches ever closer to its target. And for no particular reason, the rabbit stays put. The bunnies display some classic signs of hypnosis: They're both curious and lethargic, seemingly mesmerized by the ridiculous shenanigans going on in front of them, unaware of emotional cues like "this thing is crazy" and "I'm pretty sure it usually eats me at this point." Soon the stoat's flailing, undignified dance brings it within striking distance, and boom: No more rabbit. Researchers don't fully understand why Mr. Hoppy just sits there and watches his ridiculous spastic death break dance inexorably toward his own face, but the stoat's epileptic war dance works consistently. This is not a one-off thing. This is not a handful of stoats occasionally deploying lethal funkiness. This is a persistent hunting strategy employed by whole stoat species throughout the ages.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a tactical freakout.
Via Rolf Mueller / Kett's News Service
Above: 50 megatons of military-grade crazy.
4Birds and Cats Are Deadly Ventriloquists
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Humanity has just begun to truly appreciate how sophisticated animal language is. Most of the complex language skills employed by animals are social or defensive: They primarily communicate emotional states, or warn the pack of danger. Most are defensive -- but not all.
In the unforgiving Kalahari Desert, meerkats are the adorable treat hawks love to eat. Fortunately for the meerkats, they've got lookouts. When one meerkat screams "hawk," they all take off for cover. That's standard animal stuff, though, right? The cry is probably no more verbally complex than "danger," which doesn't put them beyond the level of, say, a paranoid squirrel. But something else has been learning the meerkat language as well: the drongo bird.
When the drongo sees that a meerkat has found something tasty, the bird will maneuver into position, wait for its moment, and then suddenly yell out the pitch-perfect Meerese word for "hawk." And of course, every one of the prey animals drops what it's doing (or eating) and runs for its life. That's when the drongo swoops in and nabs a free meal.
If it were after human food, it would yell, "Jonah Hill movie!"
It's not a simple case of meerkats being stupid, either: Scientists studying these interactions have found that the bird calls are practically indistinguishable from the real thing. And it turns out that the drongo is multilingual: They not only mix up the types of danger calls to keep the meerkats guessing, but run the same type of scam on a bird called a babbler -- but with the drongo using the Babblonian word for "hawk," obviously.
Babblers don't speak Meerese; that would be ridiculous.
On the other side of the world, in the jungles of South America, a tamarin hears the cries of a lost baby coming from the bushes. Confused and concerned, it goes to investigate. When it pokes its head through the brush trying to locate the sound, an adorable bug-eyed squirrel-cat rips its friggin' head off.
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There have long been anecdotal reports of jaguars and pumas mimicking primate calls, but now scientists have witnessed it happening firsthand. A jungle cat called a margay has been observed luring a monkey down from the trees by emulating the distressed cries of baby monkeys. We don't want to overstate the creepiness of this development or anything -- we're just saying that next time you hear crying on the baby monitor, bring both a bottle and a gun.
There's probably a tiger up there.
"Did someone yell out 'Free beer'?"