*Do not do this
Evolution has afforded every animal in the world the tools perfectly designed for its survival, whether it be claws, venom, horns or whatever it is that cockroaches have. But every once in a while, evolution makes a mistake and leaves a totally useless trait in an entire species. That's bad news for them, but good news for us, as it can be amusing as hell.
Specifically, there are traits that allow the animal to be completely immobilized with a touch, push or rub. That means any common person can show off these tricks to their friends and tell them that they are the Beast Master.
With some practice, anyone can ...
OK -- so you're underwater, and a great white is fast approaching. It's attracted by the gash in your left leg from the dolphin that swam you out here, bit you once and then left you as bait. Dolphins are the worst. Never trust a dolphin. So what do you do next?
Well, the good news is you can "hypnotize" a shark. The bad news is that it's not easy. Here's an expert doing it:
The process involves being brave enough to stick your hand as close as possible to the toothed nightmare that is the shark's mouth and then rub its nose. As you can see, caressing a shark's nose basically makes it go to sleep. You can pretty much grab it and wave it around at your friends -- like a life-size, extremely realistic bathtub toy.
Why it Works:
For one thing, stopping a shark from moving will have the same affect, whether you do it by rubbing its nose or catching it in a net. Sharks have to keep moving to continue the oxygen flow through their gills, even during sleep. When they stop, their brain starts to shut down, basically blacking out from lack of oxygen. So in reality, they are not so much hypnotized as they are half dead.
"He's not moving. I think he likes it."
Why does rubbing the nose work? Well, the nose is a particularly sensitive part of the shark and the sensation of rubbing the tip just feels nice to them. Nice enough that they'll face death to feel it. That distracts them from the fact that they're no longer moving/breathing, and they sort of pass out. And there you go! You and a friend can now go hypnotize a couple of great whites and have shark slap fights!*
*Do not do this
So you're going fishing. You've got your boots, your bucket and your hat littered with hooks. You're ready to relax and enjoy a oneness with the water. Except, hold on, you can't find any bait to put on the end of a fishing rod and, oh, also you can't find your fishing rod. Jesus, you're bad at this.
Don't worry, though -- there is another simple way to catch fish: All you have to do is tickle them.
Yep, the appropriately named "tickling trout" method of fishing is exactly what it sounds like, except instead of the fish going absolutely crazy with convulsions and laughter, they slip into a trance. It's not just a stupid trick somebody did to make a YouTube video -- trout tickling has been going on for centuries, dating all the way back to ancient Greece (though it's impossible to guess what the guy who discovered it was actually trying to do at the time).
As with the shark, the trickiest part is getting into position to do the tickling in the first place. As you see in the video, it's basically just a matter of easing up closely to the trout while it rests under a rock in the shallows. Then you brush your fingers along its tail, slowly moving up the body with a delicate touch as you would a woman ... with a tail.
Just relax, baby.
The belly tickling incapacitates the trout, and you will have a few seconds in which you can grab it.
Why it Works:
Tickling is a mysterious business even for humans: How can something so irritating still make people laugh? Likewise, little is known about why it has such an effect on fish, though it appears to be a similar response to what we see with the shark -- it seems that fish actually enjoy the sensation. Perhaps the strangest example of it is recounted in the aptly titled "Strange Fish and Their Stories" by H. Eyatt Verrill, who reports on a Cuban proprietor of the Club Miramar in Florida named Raoul who claimed that his fish so enjoyed being rubbed that they would jump out the water at his command just to be tickled. He also might have been crazy.
According to the standard hypnotism cliche, a man who has been properly entranced can hear a trigger word or sound at any point in his life and suddenly believe he is a chicken. Well, it turns out that it's just as easy to convince a chicken it's a man. No, we're kidding. But you can convince a chicken it's dead.
That's pretty damn convincing.
We're not sure what practical purpose this will serve in your life, but we're pretty sure you can win some pretty hefty bar bets doing this:
First, get in front of the chicken and then gently rest its head on the ground, applying enough pressure on its neck to keep it there. Now draw a straight line in the dirt about two feet away from its beak. The chicken will focus on the mark in the dirt and lose all interest in anything else in the world other than that goddamn line. Its heart rate and breathing will slow, and then that's it. It will stay that way for up to half an hour.
Why it Works:
What is actually happening is known as "tonic immobility." Like opossums playing dead, this is a last ditch defense mechanism for some animals ... a really, really bad one. When faced with an external threat, chickens play dead in hopes that the aggressor will just lose interest, which would be fine if their natural predators were bears or a T-Rex, but this mechanism is considerably less useful when faced with a farmer. In fact, the method for chicken hypnotizing was discovered because farmers needed an easy way to keep them still while lopping off their heads.
Still, no one knows for certain why the line drawn in the sand would trigger tonic immobility -- maybe it has more to do with the huge human standing over and pressing its head into the ground than the line. Or maybe it's the first time the chicken has really been faced with a comprehensible symbol for linear time and it's blowing its mind.
For an animal hack that serves no purpose at all and is only notable for the bizarre position you can leave the creature in, our ability to hypnotize lobsters is still surprisingly fascinating:
Simply grab the crustacean and turn it on its head, using its claws to balance it. Then rub the top of the tail. The lobster will then stay in that position for hours, balancing on its nose and just generally shamed into paralysis.
Why it Works:
While the trick for putting lobsters in a trance is widely known (lots of recipes for lobster dishes will even mention it as a way to make the lobster hold still), very little research has been done on why exactly it happens. Maybe it has to do with blood flow, the same way a person can pass out if they hang upside down long enough. Experts speculate that it's a defense mechanism, like with the chicken -- but again, no one really understands how it would possibly help in a life or death situation. It apparently works on crabs as well, and some people insist on cooking their seafood in this position, presumably because they love the taste of crustacean humiliation.
"Just ... just kill me, man.
On the hierarchy of animal adorableness, lizards barely squeak in above spiders and hairless moles. They have all the writhing ugliness of a snake, but they are also equipped with dinosaur feet and eyes that act independently of one another. Fortunately for you, and for nature, there's an easy way to incapacitate them long enough to pretty them up a little with some tiny sunglasses and a cabana hat -- assuming you have those things.
It couldn't be simpler: You put the lizard on its back, then rub its throat and belly. It will go completely limp in your hand.
Why it Works:
A lizard depends on muscles in its throat and torso to contract and expand the lungs to keep oxygen flowing in the body (it doesn't have a diaphragm). When it's on its back, the weight of its limbs put abnormal pressure on these muscles and they can't do their job properly. Exacerbating this is your damn finger poking at its belly and throat.
Dude, KNOCK IT OFF!
As a result, the whole system shuts down temporarily, conserving what little oxygen it's getting. The result is a lizard that's more or less putty in your hands. To be clear, the process doesn't hurt the lizard, it just forces it to shut down, like an on/off switch. And just to give this context, when humans suffer from oxygen deprivation, the symptoms aren't nearly as elegant.
Suddenly lizards don't look so stupid.
Alligators don't swim as much as they drift lazily through water, much like that creepy guy who hangs out at public pools, except without the beer koozie or the wake of body oil. That languid glide of alligators is deceptive, however, because they are certainly much faster when they want to rip your arm out of its socket -- and it's impossible to tell which mode they're in. Well, it turns out there's a way to make sure that the alligator stays drugged-up and on autopilot, and never enters predator mode -- but it requires some courage.
Because they occasionally burst into song.
To hack its brain, you'll first have to approach it from the back, avoiding the teeth, and hold its jaws together. That sounds harder than it is -- the alligator can clamp down with an amazing amount of pressure, but is surprisingly bad at opening its mouth when any kind of force is applied. Once you have a good grip, you'll have to turn the alligator onto its back. Here's how that's done by the pros:
This feels like a good time to point out how incredibly dangerous this is. Even the alligators that don't want to eat you, generally don't like being touched and they'll let you know by murdering you. But if you can manage to get an alligator on its back, you can send it into a sort of hibernation where everything in its body slows and it can't be bothered to do anything but lie there.
Why it Works:
Unlike pretty much every other animal affected by these odd brain hacks, alligators actually voluntarily use this "skill" in everyday life. When, for instance, an alligator feels threatened by an oncoming boat, it submerges into water and its heart-rate drops from 35 beats-per-minute to two. It becomes perfectly motionless, which is in effect what is happening when we turn it over on land; it's re-enacting what happens when it feels threatened in water.
Outside of the water it is, of course, a pretty useless defense but one that still takes over as a means of protection. Fortunately, alligators don't have a lot of natural predators on land other than humans, so falling into this state of paralysis isn't a trait that's been weeded out over the centuries. So keep in mind if you try this: You're banking that your alligator doesn't happen to be part of the first generation that finally figures out what we're doing.
For other ways man messed around with nature, check out 7 Insane Military Attempts To Weaponize Animals and 6 Insane Uses of Animals in Wartime (That Actually Worked).