Exeter, Devon UK • May 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Science The Hunter Games

The Hunter Games

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A recent study on African penguins has revealed that they are real team players when it comes to hunting. It was discovered that these specific penguins are 2.7 times more efficient at catching prey when they work together. Their technique is simple, they herd the fish into large balls, encircling to the point of no escape. The fish that do peel away from the ball are just an easy target. The birds’ plumage only assists this inescapability. The black colour camouflages them into the dark sea, the darkness mirroring the lack of hope for their victims. This superior hunting technique has led to a little contemplation on what members of the animal kingdom have unusual or slightly strange hunting techniques. I’ve picked a few who I deem to be pretty amazing!

‘African penguins’ – source: wikimedia

As our first contender, we have the net casting spiders. These creatures use their silk to construct a stamp sized net which can enclose victims in a rapid fashion. Moths, ants and even other spiders (#cannibalism) fall prey to this sneaky trap. It constructs the trap through placement of target points made of white faeces. It then holds the net between the points with its front legs and suspends the rest of its body from a thread. Then, it waits. As soon as a victim appears, it lunges and quickly bites into the flesh of its fresh meal. But this ploy isn’t the only skill these arachnid hunters possess. They have exceptionally large eyes which have the ability to see in low light. This ability has earned them the alter ego “ogre-faced spiders” which is pretty shrek-tacular.

‘Margay’ – source: wikimedia

Next up is the margay, also known as the tree ocelot. Although mimicry is rife in the animal kingdom, this predator takes the crown. It possesses the ability to mimic the cry of a baby pied tamarin monkey in order to attract curious adult monkeys. Once the adult is near, the predator meets prey. Of course, cats are renowned for their physical ability but these cats obviously have an element of psychological cunning to act their way to a tasty meal.

It is said that this creature has one of the quickest ambush times in the animal kingdom

Frogfishes are another interesting batch of hunters. They are similar to the anglerfish in their use of a lure, but instead of an enticing light, it extends an appendage that resembles a dangling worm. Once prey is in sight they jiggle their lure. Even if their worms are bitten off, the creature has the ability to regenerate *cue Doctor Who music*. As soon as the bait is received, the fish sucks its victim with its overly large mouth in miliseconds. It is said that this creature has one of the quickest ambush times in the animal kingdom.

Another group hunter of interest is the humpback whale. The whales swim in an upward spiral below the shoal of fish. Whilst this occurs, they shoot columns of air bubbles to the surface. The fish will not swim through these bubble pillars so they act as a net to ensnare the fish. A rather  ingenious hunting technique to feed some of the largest stomachs on this planet.

‘Humpback whale’ – source: flickr

Finally, we have two contestants who are competing in the same event. The green heron and the jaguar who both use the surface of the water to hunt. The green heron picks up small objects and drops them into the water. The motion attracts the fish to the surface where upon the heron swoops in. The jaguar uses a very similar technique except instead of small objects, it uses its tails to enact a waterlogged insect or a piece of fallen fruit. Fish are again attracted to this disturbance and go and investigate. In both scenarios, the predators get a meal. The winner of this contest is however the heron, for although the jaguar’s antics have been recorded since 1830 by various authors, it has never been proven by researchers.

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