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A review of thanatosis (death feigning) as an anti-predator behaviour

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Author(s)

Rosalind Kay Humphreys, Graeme D. Ruxton

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Thanatosis—also known as death-feigning and, we argue more appropriately, tonic immobility (TI)—is an under-reported but fascinating anti-predator strategy adopted by diverse prey late on in the predation sequence, and frequently following physical contact by the predator. TI is thought to inhibit further attack by predators and reduce the perceived need of the predator to subdue prey further. The behaviour is probably present in more taxa than is currently described, but even within well-studied groups the precise taxonomic distribution is unclear for a number of practical and ethical reasons. Here we synthesise the key studies investigating the form, function, evolutionary and ecological costs and benefits of TI. This review also considers the potential evolutionary influence of certain predator types in the development of the strategy in prey, and the other non-defensive contexts in which TI has been suggested to occur. We believe that there is a need for TI to be better appreciated in the scientific literature and outline potentially profitable avenues for investigation. Future use of technology in the wild should yield useful developments for this field of study.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume72
Early online date15 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

    Research areas

  • Thanatosis, Tonic immobility, Death feigning, Anti-predatory defence, Trade-offs

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