Letters from the December 23 & 30, 2006, issue of Science News | Science News


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Letters to the Editor

Letters from the December 23 & 30, 2006, issue of Science News

4:32pm, December 15, 2006

Playing dead is a lively topic

I am amazed that "Why Play Dead?" (SN: 10/28/06, p. 280) concluded that "Scientists have a long way to go to explain why" prey animals play dead. As a veterinarian, I have learned that there are separate centers in the brain dealing with predatory behavior and with hunger. The effect seems to be that predatory behavior, by itself, is satisfying, even fun. It's solidly established that a moving-away object (ball, rabbit, child) can prompt predatory behavior (dog chases). Freeze behavior is well established as a last-resort, genetic strategy in all kinds of prey animals. If the predator is just out for fun, it is at least more likely to look elsewhere for kicks if the prey is "frozen."

D.B. Cameron
Nevada City, Ca.

I have noticed that chipmunks wiggle and hop after being swatted by our cat. One managed to hop near our woodpile, and suddenly it darted to safety inside.

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