death feigning

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A form of defence in which the animal becomes immobile, as if dead. Under natural conditions this usually occurs at the closing stages of a predatory encounter. In response to being grasped by the jaws of a predator the prey becomes immobile, and this behaviour can be induced in the laboratory by restraining the animal with the hand, as in animal hypnosis. The survival value of death feigning lies in the fact that predators do not attack dead prey, and do not always immediately eat animals that they kill. Foxes (Vulpes sp.) may kill a number of prey, some of which may be buried. It has been reported that ducks (Anatidae) buried in this way have subsequently escaped.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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