Fake It to Make It

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Some animals feign their own death to elude predators, but one species of snake goes the extra mile when playing dead, Newsweek reported.

Scientists discovered that dice snakes, a non-venomous species native to Europe and parts of Asia, pretend to die by defecating, leaking blood from their mouths and covering themselves in a foul-smelling musk.

In their study, researchers closely observed 263 snakes and noticed that more than half of them would use gory tactics to deter potential predators: These included struggling and hissing loudly, while spewing out musk and feces.

“Eventually, they will become immobile, with a gaping mouth and protruding tongue in a (death feigning) display,” the researchers wrote in the paper, noting the occurrence of leaking blood, or autohemorrhaging, during feigned death feigning “either as small pools of blood or as dripping mouthfuls.”

The team added that the snakes that leaked blood and defecated simultaneously were two seconds quicker in faking their own deaths than the ones who didn’t employ these tricks.

Faking death, or apparent death, serves as a way to deter predators who often prefer to eat their prey alive – or enjoy the thrill of the chase when their food is alive and kicking.

Correction: In Wednesday’s THE WORLD, BRIEFLY section, we said in our “A Problem of Geography” item that the French lower chamber in Paris was set to discuss the bill on voter rolls in New Caledonia. In fact, the lower chamber was set to vote on the bill. It approved it Tuesday evening. We apologize for the error.

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