Posts Tagged ‘mimic’

Margay cat of Brasil mimics primates to lure prey

// September 1st, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Science Communication

Altered image, original by Malene Thyssen

At some point in this post I’m going to be tempted to say “copy cat,” so I’m just going to say it now. Copy Cat. There, it’s out of my system, now let’s move on.

On fieldwork in Brasil (so jealous right now) a group of researchers saw a large cat called a margay making some weird noises. It sounded like a pied tamarin pup, a small, supercute primate species, and I recommend you click through that link so you can bask in the cuteness.

In pied tamarin society only the alpha female gives birth, usually to twins, and the pups are looked after mostly by the father. So when the margay made some pup-like mewls, an adult male pied tamarin came down to see what the deal was.

The pied tamarin stayed in the area for a good half hour while the male was keeping an eye out. But as he was watching, the margay made his move. Across some branches… almost… almost… but at the last moment the pied tamarin saw the cat and raised the alarm. All the pied tamarins in the group high tailed outta there quicker than a pirate on shore leave.

In this instance, the margay went without its meal, but a cat using noises to attract prey is unusual. In fact, this was the first time (report came out June 2009) a feline from the neotropical region was found to mimic animal cries. What’s really interesting about the report is that it says local Amazon jungle inhabitants had already told them that the margay and other cats in the area mimicked animals to catch prey. But we don’t accept it scientifically until some scientists witness it and write a report. Just strikes me as unnecessary. Maybe I’m being unscientific, I don’t know.

The margay is an interesting feline. It spends most of its time in trees. It is one of only two cats with the ankles needed to climb down trees head first, the other one being the clouded leopard. It’s been seen dangling from trees hanging by only one foot. I wonder if that observation was made by a scientist?

The Eastern Hognose Snake, one of Nature’s great actors

// July 1st, 2010 // Comments Off on The Eastern Hognose Snake, one of Nature’s great actors // The Realm of Bizzare

The Eastern Hognose Snake is mostly harmless. Though it has large fangs and is mildly venomous, it mainly eats toads and is immune to the toxins secreted by their skin. It’s large fangs can puncture toads if they try swell up with air to defend themselves. Why it chooses to eat toads over other, more delicious foods beats me.

Despite the interesting diet, this particular snake is pretty crafty. When threatened it flattens out its neck and lifts up like a cobra, hissing and striking at the offender. It’s all an act. Most of the strikes are made with the mouth firmly closed.

If the macho act fails to scare away the threat, the snake plays dead. Convincingly, emmy-award-winningly dead. It first writhes about quite dramatically as if saying loudly “oh noes, you got me!”

To finish the act the snake rolls onto its back. Its head lolls to the side, the mouth opens and tongue hangs out. It may stop breathing. Sometimes it even vomits blood or gets dirt into its mouth for added effect. Again, all an act. Once the threat is gone, the snake revives and goes on its merry way.

This video shows both deceptions in action, first the snake fakes an attack, then fakes its own death.

One thing gives away the farce, did you pick it? Although the snake is limp when moved, if it is put onto its stomach it will immediately roll onto its back. The snake knows the illusion is complete when it’s belly up.

There are plenty of great animal actors out there, but I know of none are better than the Mimic Octopus. Hats off.

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