The 5 Most Impressively Convoluted Traps Set by Animals
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 ...
Stoats Exploit a Glitch in the Rabbit Matrix
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.
Above: 50 megatons of military-grade crazy.
Birds and Cats Are Deadly Ventriloquists
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.
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'?"
Guppies Conduct Psychological Rape Warfare
The animal kingdom is pretty blase about the whole rape thing. Take the guppies.
No, seriously -- they have bladed dicks and they're raping everything, somebody get those crazy fuckers out of here.
"Mom, we need to make an amendment to your birds and bees theory."
But that's not to say the female guppies are defenseless, or even morally blameless: They've evolved a number of cunning strategies to stay murderously chaste, such as actively seeking out and hanging around with their own predators. Females in the wild are typically a dull brown color, while males are much flashier and therefore more prone to predation. A drab female might not be spotted by a nearby predator, but her bright potential rapist could be ...
Jesus. Imagine how bad the sexual situation has to be to make "chillin' with things that want to eat me" a reasonable defense mechanism. Picture it: One night you find yourself stranded in a neighborhood notorious for its sexual assaults, so you put on a beige sweater and seek out the scariest looking murderer you can find. If any rapists come rapin' along, you just sit real still and hope that the murderer gets all his murders out before he notices you squatting in the corner.
That seems like a terrible trade-off. But then again, it does sound marginally better than being prodded by hooked boners all day.
"I can't take it anymore! I'm going to drown myse- Oh. Well, shit."
And that's not the sketchiest thing female guppies do in their attempt to get a little sexual reprieve: Terribly shallow human females will sometimes hang out with less attractive friends to make themselves look better. Guppies exhibit the same behavior, but in reverse: Female guppies can recognize their own level of sexual receptiveness as compared to other females, and they use this comprehension not to make themselves look better by comparison, but to look worse. A hot, sexually active young guppy swimming through a strange pond might find a whole clique of prudish new friends suddenly following her everywhere she goes. But they're not there to support her. Oh no: When confronted, the unwilling guppies use the receptive ones as decoys so that they can get away from the males unmolested.
Guppies use each other as rape bait.
And if all else fails ... crazy eyes.
Herrings Talk Out Their Ass
Herrings, like many fish, swim together in giant schools for protection. But they need to keep in almost constant communication to bunch together so tightly. So how do they manage to coordinate a whole school without accidentally attracting predators? Simple: They fart.
They have developed ass-based communication. The fart phone. Stinky semaphore. They are ButtTooth compatible.
It works like this: Herrings gulp down surface air and store it in their swim bladder. When it gets dark, a fish will communicate its approximate location to the school by releasing that air through its anus. If a fish gets lost, he just follows the big cloud of herring fart noises, and he finds his way home. It's like the old saying goes: One fish farting is embarrassing; 600,000 fish farting is ingenious. It's worth noting that the herrings only surf the butt-wide web in the dark -- because even in the high stakes game of survival, nobody wants to make eye contact while attending fartschool.
Now, because it's mostly just air being expelled underwater, the herring farts don't function via smell, but sound. So couldn't opportunistic predators with low dining standards just follow the tiny aquatic squeaks to their gassy meals? Nope: Herring anuses are specially formed to squeak at a higher frequency than other fish farts.
That's right: Other fish farts.
You don't have to look so damn proud about it.
Apparently everything in the ocean is just farting all the time. Feel free to provide the appropriate sound effects next time you watch one of those gorgeous Discovery Channel documentaries about the quiet beauty of the ocean.
An Amazonian Spider Makes a Scarecrow of Itself
Look at that thing.
Fuck whatever that thing is. Some sort of creepy bone spider, or at least the molted exoskeleton of some sort of creepy bone spider. It doesn't matter. It's giant and weird and we hate it.
And we have just been outsmarted by an arachnid.
Recently, biologist Phil Torres discovered a spider in the Amazon that makes scarecrow-like versions of itself at a much larger size to ward off predators. After he figured out what was really going on, Torres went in for a closer look and found the actual spider (a tiny little guy) hiding just above the decoy, periodically shaking it to make the fake spider look like it was moving.
Again, this is not anything like molting, and it is not accidental: This spider is self-aware. It knows what a spider looks like, collects random pieces of non-spider-related debris, and constructs a much larger fake arachnid -- even with the correct number of legs -- then stands behind it like a puppeteer, jerking it around to freak out and ward off predators.
Even if a predator isn't scared away by the unsettling spider marionette show and chooses to attack, it will, at best, get a mouthful of jungle garbage while the real spider darts away unharmed. Presumably to construct a taunting middle finger out of sticks and bits of leaves.
It's like a Tim Burton version of Charlotte's Web.
Andrew is also an independent musician. You can help him out by liking his page here, downloading his album from it, or both! And Monte Richard does lots of stuff, he just doesn't want to tell you about it.
Related Reading: For some underrated predators with insane hunting abilities, click this link. You'll learn that spiders can hear with their hair- AND that wolves use the earth's magnetic field to plan their attacks. And did you know that centipedes are eating bats now? Because they TOTALLY are. And if that doesn't have you terrified, this article will reveal all the greatest serial killers in the animal kingdom.