Many animals play dead—and not just to avoid getting eaten
Snakes, invertebrates, birds, and more have evolved several reasons for feigning death.
Of all the ways animals have evolved to evade predators, feigning death might be one of the most creative—and risky.
Scientifically known as thanatosis, or tonic immobility, playing dead occurs across the animal kingdom, from birds to mammals to fish. Perhaps the most famous death faker is North America’s Virginia opossum, which opens its mouth, sticks out its tongue, empties its bowels, and excretes foul-smelling fluids to convince a predator it’s past the expiration date.
Dozens of invertebrates practice tonic immobility, making them among the most common—or at least most studied—species to do so.
For instance, when approached by a predator, pygmy grasshoppers in Japan will play dead by sticking out their legs in several directions, making it nearly