Best animal liars and con artists

Posted on Apr 23, 2013 in Behaviour, Skills

Best animal liars and con artists

 

You may think animals lack the intelligence or the motive to lie but you’d be wrong! Prepare to be surprised by the tricks and cons this bunch of creatures commit on a regular basis. Some are greedy, some fake bravado, and some just plain like stealing things.

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SHAM ACTOR – THE OPOSSUM

Perhaps one of the animal kingdom’s most famous outright con artists is the plucky Opossum, who is famously able to fake its own death to avoid conflict.  While you may think this isn’t much of a deterrent to would-be predators, this furry thespian will also ensure to unleash a pungent aroma resembling that of a rotting carcass to send its enemies running.  So not only is the Opossum a liar, it’s a dirty, stinking one!

 

PARENTING 101 – THE CUCKOO

Of all the devious creatures in the world today, there may not be one so cold-hearted as the Cuckoo.  The female Cuckoo will choose to lay its eggs in nests belonging to different species of bird – so that it doesn’t have to rear and feed her young herself!  This bizarre cheat might not be cunning – but the surrogate mother will still rear the bird, though the young Cuckoo will often resent its adoptive siblings.  I blame the parents!

 

HUNGRY HONEYTRAP – THE FIREFLY

Fireflies are well-known for being luminous, and different species of fireflies will flash their lights in different ways.  The female of most firefly species is particularly devious with this – as she can imitate the flashing and behaviour of species she doesn’t belong to.  By doing this, she is able to attract an unwitting male that thinks it has a chance of mating – before eating him alive!

 

BOXING BLUFFER – THE MANTIS SHRIMP

This deep-sea shrimp, otherwise known as a Stomatopod, packs one heck of a punch – shell-shattering, in some cases – but when it comes to one-on-one combat, it’s less about knocking the other guy out and more about bluffing each other with bravado.  If two shrimps square up for a duel, each will extend their boxing-glove-like claws out – and it’s likely the pugilist with the smaller fists will back down, though both will act their hearts out to try and get the other to concede!

 

CUNNING CROAKER – THE FROG

Green frogs, specifically, assert their dominance the only way they can – through their size, and through the size of their croaks.  Larger frogs will naturally have louder, deeper croaks – but there’s always room for deception!  It’s been noted that smaller frogs will try and cheat their way to becoming the alpha male of the lily pad by mimicking a deeper, louder croak.  It’s said that they also do this to scare would-be predators away into thinking that they are huge.

 

FALSE ALARM – THE TOPI ANTELOPE

The male of the topi antelope species has been proven to be an outright liar – and it’s all down to how he uses his snort.  These antelopes have ‘warning’ noises they make when a predator or foe is approaching – and the male will sometimes lure a female back to him by tricking her into thinking there’s danger around.  This probably has a fairly high success rate, too – at least until the females evolve to know a cheat when they hear one!

 

 Why do animals bluff? According to Eldridge Adams, a biologist from University of Rochester, the phenomenon can be likened to a game of draw poker between two people. “Each person knows his or her own strength, but not the strength of the opponent. Sometimes the optimal strategy is to threaten the opponent by raising the stakes, even though you have a weak hand.” Our animal friends would certainly raise a paw or claw to that!

 

THE MATING GAME – THE ATLANTIC MOLLY

While a fairly run-of-the-mill fish, Mollies in American waters have been tested to reveal there’s a cunning mating strategy used by males of the species.  While in search of a mate, males will actively compete to find the most desirable female around – and they will actually attempt to throw each other off the scent of more attractive fish by pretending to show interest in ones that aren’t as desirable!  And if you didn’t think fish could feel jealous, you’ve just been enlightened.

 

GREED ALERT – THE SHRIKE TANAGER

The role of the shrike tanager in a flock of birds is to act as watchman, or as an early alarm system.  If predators approach, it will shriek loudly to warn everyone.  However, studies have shown that it doesn’t necessarily put its skills to honest use – as it will sometimes shriek to scare its fellow avians away to snaffle up their food!  It’s a wonder it still has a job if it continues to shirk its responsibilities…

 

KINGS AND QUEENS OF CRAFTY  – THE CHIMPANZEE

As some of our closest relatives, chimpanzees are arguably the best liars of the animal kingdom – mainly because the cognitively know that they are being deceitful!  Chimps have been known to steal, trick people into a false sense of security, conceal things and even plot in advance – they cheat because they can, and they often do it well thanks to their brilliant memories and advanced thought processes.

 

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