Features: Animals that make a fool out of you, me, and everyone

we all get pranked eventually

April 1st, 2018


It’s April Fools Day and we all know what that means: you are going to spend the entire day waiting to be tricked, and when you let your guard down for just a moment, boom! Bamboozled again. Unlike humans, most creatures employ deception as a means of survival, not just to make short-term enemies. That said, the jury is still out on whether cats intentionally trip us as we walk up the stairs. My vote is yes.

There are a lot of ways to pull off a good prank. For animals success can look like avoiding predators, getting laid, making sure someone else doesn’t get laid, and even getting someone else to raise your kids. In the spirit of everyone’s least favorite unofficial holiday, I’ve compiled a very incomplete list of animals that take pranking to the next level, organized by prank type. No foolin’.

Camouflage - Chameleon



These bug-eyed, old world lizards are the classic hide and seek champions, as many chameleon species have the seemingly magical ability to change color. Color is determined by wavelength as it enters our eyes, and as Pink Floyd taught us, crystals are a great way to turn white light into a rainbow. Chameleons have guanine crystals under their skin, and color-changing occurs when they shift the distance between those crystals, changing the wavelengths along with it. Pretty advanced pranking there! You’ll be in the rainforest searching for an orange animal, and walk right by that same animal because it’s green and blending into the background. Rude!



Mimicry - Lyrebird, Caterpillars

Is it a prank when your sibling repeats everything you say until you snitch on them? Let’s say it is. The Lyrebird is the annoying younger sibling of the animal kingdom with its unique ability to mimic natural and unnatural sounds with ease. Is that a flute you’re hearing? No, it’s just a super talented bird trying to let the ladies know what’s up. Oh no, is someone running at you with a chainsaw? Maybe, but it’s probably just a bird. A lyrebird.

Animals can trick us with more than just their voices. I’ll never forget my misplaced outrage when I saw the head of snake squirming on the ground only to discover that it was a jerk caterpillar pranking me. Several caterpillar species look like snakes - the one that fooled me even had a tongue-like appendage. At least it photographed well.


Brood Parasites - Screaming Cowbird

Did you think it said blood parasites? I did too when I first learned about them. Pranked! A brood parasite is an animal that tricks something else to raise its babies, because child-rearing takes a lot of work and is not as fun as looking for worms or whatever. Several insect, fish, and bird species do this, but the screaming cowbird is an obligate brood parasite, as well as owner of a very ridiculous and hilarious name. They plop their eggs into the nest of another cowbird species’ nest, and the babies take it from there: after hatching, they will mimic the call of their host species. Rude!

Tactical deception - Doggos



You don’t want it to be true, but it is true: our faithful companions have been tricking us into giving them delicious treats. Studies have shown that dogs are more than willing to trick others when food is on the line. They may distract their friends so they can run and grab a treat, and they probably won’t waste their time with you if you’ve been stingy in the past. Perhaps most importantly, they do that puppy dog eye thing, and I for one can barely resist it.




Fake lures - Anglerfish, Tentacle snake

To be fair, humans are all about tricking fish into chomping down on plastic, which gives them either an unwanted lip piercing or death. But we aren’t alone in our luring, no, the wilderness is full of animals who have grown appendages meant to dangle and entice, tricking prey into becoming food. Some little thing thinks it’s about to chow down on a glowing orb hanging in the ocean, or a dingaling coming out of the dirt, and then it’s lights out! Pranked.

Sexual deception: Female tricking male - Mouse Lemur

All the misogynists out there are going to see this category and be all, “see, lady animals are out to get dude animals with their pranks,” but calm down bro, the mouse lemur is just trying to keep the fellas from literally eating her children. I think tricking is justified in this case. This little primate does all the emotional labor of telling not one but SEVERAL males that they are her babys’ daddy, but the plus side for the males is that she informs them of this fact by having sex with them. Pranked?

Sexual deception: Male tricking female - Topi Antelope

Now we’re back to the more typical sexual deception scenario: males tricking females into having sex with them. Topi Antelope dudes spend their precious energy pretending that there is a predator nearby so that females will stop wandering out of their territory, snorting and stamping at something that isn’t there so the female has to fall back into his arms. Classic pickup artist prank.

Sexual deception: Male tricking male - Red sided garter snake

What do you do when you’re a lonely snake without the confidence of some of those sexier, more muscular snakes? You trick them into thinking you’re a female, then rush off to bang the actual female while your competition is distracted. Pranked!


Over and out,

Ali Wunderman


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