Dice Snakes Play Dead To Deter Predators And Even Smear Themselves With Their Own Blood To Make The Scene More Convincing

Geza Farkas - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual snake

Playing dead is a strategy that a certain species of snake uses to escape the grasp of predators.  And, to add to the performance, they smear themselves with their own blood and feces to make it more convincing.

A paper published in Biology Letters discusses how dice snakes play dead to deter predators.

Animals staging their own deaths to fool predators is common. This behavior is called death feigning or thanatosis.

When dice snakes are faced with their predators, they release fecal matter and musk with a strong stench. Then, they flop onto their backs and pretend to be dead. Sometimes, they even start bleeding from the mouth to make themselves look like a highly unappealing meal.

Dice snakes reach lengths of around four feet and occupy regions in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. They are also nonvenomous, so they can’t use poison to protect themselves from larger mammals and birds.

Their display of fake death and excretions of gross bodily fluids is their best defense against animals that might want to eat them.

Researchers studied a population of dice snakes on Golem Grad, an island located in Lake Prespa, North Macedonia. These snakes seem to utilize thanatosis more often than any other population of dice snakes.

They tested 263 dice snakes by simulating situations in which a predator would approach them. In total, 124 snakes smeared feces on their bodies, and 28 of them bled from the mouth, a phenomenon known as autohemmorhaging or reflex bleeding.

According to Vukašin Bjelica, the lead author of the study and a biologist at the University of Belgrade, the individual personalities of the snakes may determine what behaviors they engage in.

Geza Farkas – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual snake

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