Thanatosis: Playing Dead To Stay Alive

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Opossums aren't the only animals that play dead, although they do take it to the next level. Instead of just freezing, they secrete odor, droppings, and drool. The act of playing dead for animals like opossums is called thanatosis, or tonic immobility and apparent death. This adaptive behavior is also exhibited in ducks, fish, sharks, and other various invertebrates. This behavior can be used as a survival strategy, but can also come in handy as a hunting tactic in order to sneak up on unsuspecting prey.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The horror movie character Michael Myers is famous for playing dead as a survival and hunting tactic. 01:15

  2. Thanatosis (also tonic immobility) is the name for the "playing dead" in the natural world. 01:59

  3. Playing can be used by animals for survival or predatory purposes. 03:31

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