We fear death, so do animals, even some insects like dragonflies-

“Playing possum” by possums is not a clever fraud. Instead it seems to be a last ditch involuntary device to avoid death by giving up and entering a state from which they can’t be roused when the predator leaves until minutes or hours have passed.  Apparently opossums don’t all do this. Usually it is the least experienced ones, and  kind of like a profound faint.

Dragonflies are voracious insect predators, but it seems even the sight of a fish that could eat the dragonfly is enough to mortally “stress it” (scare it to death). See Insects Are Scared to Death of Fish. Science Daily.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

3 Responses to Fear of death extends to the insect world

  1. Nancy says:

    A couple of months ago while at a friend’s place I happened to look up and noticed an amazing sight. Hundreds of thousands of insects swarming, a few hundred feet up, tiny little dots, bobbing & weaving in the sunlight. Waited for a few to come back to the ground and discovered they were baby dragonflies. They were coming back down to a small pond in front of the cabin. The pond had been fished out so it was probably a nice place to hang out around, if you were a dragonfly 🙂

  2. Just released a couple of days ago on Amazon is Mark Elroch and Kurt Rinehart’s new book called Behavior of North American Mammals. I was able to buy an advance copy from Mark at our tracking conference and it was in this book I first read about opossum “fainting”. The book is up to date and very complete with great photographs. It is sort of the missing link between field guides and actual observations of animals. The sections on bears alone is worth getting the book as it is the current knowledge of bear behavior from all sources that are reputable. I haven’t finished it all yet but I think anyone who is interested in animals would want this book.

    • jburnham says:

      Thanks for the info Linda. Elbroch’s “Mammal Tracks and Sign” is one of my favorite tracking books. Though at just shy of 800 pages (50lbs?) I hesitate to call it a field guide. If this new book is even half as useful it will be well worth the price.


October 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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