BY ARUNA S
The natural world has just as many thugs, thieves, cheaters, and fakers as the human world. Plants and animals are constantly evolving new strategies to defraud each other. Even as one creatures perfects a method of fooling another, the others devise counter-methods to avoid the traps.
Two of my favourite deceptive animals are the cuckoo bird and the hog-nosed snake.
The cunning cuckoo
The cuckoo often lays its eggs in the nests of other birds.Cuckoo egg in a swallow’s nest/credict/google image
Can you spot the odd egg out in the picture above? It’s easy enough for us, but some birds don’t perceive colour the same way as humans. The cuckoo mother is wily enough to make sure she only hijacks nests belonging to birds which can’t tell the difference.
The cuckoo chick is just as cunning as its parent. Once it hatches, it will sometimes push the other eggs out of the nest, especially if the nest is small. In this way it ensures that it gets the maximum attention from its foster parents.
Though some birds are really good at spotting an impostor’s egg in their nest, most of them aren’t. The foster parent doesn’t seem to realise the trick even when the cuckoo chick has grown bigger than itself, and continues to feed it and take care of it for a long time.credits/wikimedia commons
The few birds that are capable of spotting an impostor egg do so by noticing changes in colours, shape, size and arrangement of eggs. So, if the bird arranges the eggs a certain way and the impostor egg doesn’t fit in, it throws it out. To counter this strategy, brood parasites like the cuckoo are always trying to make their eggs less identifiable, while birds whose nests are used as a home by such parasites are constantly devising techniques to identify impostor eggs.
The theatrical snake
The hog-nosed snake’s strategies are quite different from the cuckoo’s. A timid and non-venomous snake, it tries its hardest to burrow underground and hide quickly when attacked, but if this fails, it has a range of theatrical techniques up its hood.
When attacked, the hog-nosed snake first pretends to be a cobra, and hisses at its attacker. If the attacker seems unconvinced, it starts to play dead by rolling on its back. Now, you or I would play dead by simply closing our eyes and lying very still, but the hog-nosed snake is a much better actor than us. It emits a foul smell, hangs its tongue out, and sometimes even leaves a few droplets of blood on the ground. While it’s playing dead, if you touch its mouth or fangs, the hog-nosed will continue to lay still. Then, if the attacker looks away for a moment, the hog-nosed snake makes a quick escape.
Can you tell us about some other animals that are deceptive?