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escape


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A form of defence behaviour, which may occur as soon as a predator is detected, or only when the predator attempts capture. For example, rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) run as soon as a predator is detected, while hares (Lepus europaeus) may remain motionless, in camouflage, until detected by a predator, and only then make their escape.

Some animals escape to a prepared retreat, such as the rabbit's burrow, which often has a second exit. Anemone fish (Amphiprion spp.) retreat into the tentacles of their anemone, from which they gain protection. Some animals, like the tortoises (Testudinidae) have a mobile retreat.

Evasive manoeuvres during escape are common. Thus hares, and ptarmigan (Lagopus sp.), execute sudden changes of direction during flight from predators. Flying fish (Exocoetidae) make prolonged jumps out of the water, and so disappear from the predator's view. Many insects, and some frogs (Anura), exhibit flash coloration. Thus grasshoppers (Trilophidia spp.) have conspicuous coloration while escaping, then they suddenly assume a stationary cryptic posture and apparently disappear.

Many invertebrates have a stereotyped escape reflex, triggered by giant nerve fibres that carry a very fast message to all the muscles involved, so that they contract suddenly and simultaneously. Examples are the withdrawal reflexes of snails (Gastropoda) and the tail flip of prawns (Decapoda) that propels the animal backwards.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.


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