How Long to Play Dead in Order to Stay Alive? The Answer Is “Highly Strategic”

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Belly-Up Antlion Larva

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A belly-up antlion larva staying stationary for an unforeseeable duration screening to damage the perseverance of possible predators. Credit: Professor Nigel R. Franks, University of Bristol

Many animals stay stationary or play dead after being assaulted by a predator in the hope that it will quit and move onto some other regrettable victim.

A group of researchers from the University of Bristol has actually been studying this phenomenon in antlions thought about to among the fiercest predators in the insect kingdom.

Their findings, which appear today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, recommend that studying the period of such immobility might offer a brand-new understanding of predator-prey relationships.

Professor Nigel Franks, from the School of Biological Sciences, led the research study. He stated: “Lots of animals play dead in severe threat. Examples consist of possums, specific birds, and woodlice.

“Even people might play dead in extremis. However, to the very best of our understanding, nobody prior to us has asked the concern the length of time should a possible victim ‘play possum’?”

The Bristol group found that playing dead in antlion larvae is extremely tactical – staying stationary for entirely unforeseeable durations. Hence, a predator cannot forecast the length of time its possible victim will stay non-active.

Professor Franks included: “This is a method that must evaluate to damage the perseverance of a possible predator and has actually most likely conserved numerous antlions from their fate.

“Our work shows a new way forwards for studies of predator evasion: namely, the importance of quantitative and analytical approaches focusing on how behavioural acts can be strategically timed.”

Reference: “Post-contact immobility and half-lives that save lives” by Ana B. Sendova-Franks, Alan Worley and Nigel R. Franks, 8 July 2020, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0881



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