Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins episode 5

Chris Packham's Animal Einsteins episode 5

Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins episode 5: In this episode Chris Packham reveals the intelligent cons and deceitful behaviour that animal Einsteins use to survive and prosper in the game of life – from disguising themselves to outwit predators, and kidnapping babies to save their own offspring, to reading our body language to pull off a successful robbery. We start with the ultimate master of disguise – the octopus. Prof Roger Hanlon describes how octopus intelligence rivals that of vertebrates, with extraordinarily fast and complex decision-making that transforms their appearance faster than the blink of an eye. If camouflage doesn’t fool a predator, then an octopus can change tactics to startling them instead, switching to look like something too weird to eat.



Cheetah cubs may use a disguise of sorts too. We explore a little-known theory that a baby cheetah’s appearance may fool predators into thinking they are too feisty to tackle. Young cubs bear a remarkable resemblance to honey badgers, one of the most aggressive animals in the savannah that even lions and eagles won’t mess with. Mimicry can attract as well as repel…. the caterpillars of alcon blue butterflies smell and sound like ant larvae to cleverly con their way into a nice, safe home for the winter. Worker ants are duped into taking the caterpillar into their colony, providing it with food and shelter until the spring.




The beloved sea otter may look like butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, but a hungry male has no qualms about kidnapping a pup whilst its mother is foraging. He only releases his hostage in exchange for a free meal. In Australia, the super-social white-winged chough lives in large groups with only one pair breeding and the rest helping to raise their chicks. As Dr Constanza Leon explains, chough chicks are so needy that it takes seven birds to raise one chick and if times are hard, adults will use a special display to entice young birds from rival groups to join theirs and help out with childcare.


Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins episode 5


Dolphins are renowned for their intelligence, and we learn how calculating female bottlenose dolphins mate with multiple males to protect their future calves – if each male believes he could be the father then she reduces the chance of infanticide.

The ocean is the scene of another two-faced deceit. Competition for mates can be fierce, so some male cuttlefish use cunning tricks to get a female. For giant Australian cuttlefish size is important – so small males change their appearance and put on a female disguise to sneak past larger rivals and woo a mate. Marine biologist Dr Martin Garwood discovered that another species, the mourning cuttlefish, takes it one step further – a sneaky male splits its appearance down the middle to look male on one side (to attract a female) and female on the other to fool onlooking rival males. All’s fair in love and war!

Dr Sarah Lower studies the appropriately named femme fatale firefly that has learned multiple languages to lure in unsuspecting males to an untimely death. After mating with her own species, the female firefly changes her flashes to lure in males of another species – not for mating but to eat them and so ingest valuable chemicals that protect their eggs from predators. We discover how the much-maligned gull is actually an astute opportunist, able to read our eyeline and our body language to steal a meal when the coast is clear. Animals use every trick in the book to get ahead – being smart, sneaky and scheming can be the recipe for success.

Deceitful Behaviour in the Animal Kingdom: Survival of the Sneakiest

As humans, we often pride ourselves on our ability to be honest, kind, and trustworthy. However, in the animal kingdom, deceitful behaviour is a common and essential survival tactic. From camouflage to mimicry, animals have evolved a range of tactics to deceive their predators, prey, and even their own species. Let’s explore some of the most fascinating examples of deceitful behaviour in the animal kingdom.

Camouflage: Hiding in Plain Sight

Camouflage is perhaps the most well-known and widespread form of animal deception. Many animals have evolved to blend in with their surroundings, making them nearly invisible to predators or prey. For example, the Arctic fox’s fur changes colour with the seasons, from white in winter to brown in summer, allowing it to better blend in with its surroundings. Similarly, the chameleon can change its skin colour and texture to match the background, making it nearly impossible to spot.

Mimicry: Copying the Competition

Mimicry is another common form of deception in the animal kingdom, where one species imitates another species to gain an advantage. For example, the harmless scarlet king snake mimics the venomous coral snake’s red, yellow, and black banding, fooling predators into thinking it’s dangerous. Another example is the viceroy butterfly, which mimics the appearance of the toxic monarch butterfly to deter predators.

Pretending: Faking it Until You Make It

Some animals have evolved to pretend to be something they’re not to gain an advantage. For example, the caterpillar of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly has evolved to look like bird droppings, deterring predators from attacking it. Similarly, the glass frog has translucent skin that makes it look like a leaf, allowing it to blend in with its surroundings and avoid detection.

Trickery: Manipulating Perception

Some animals have evolved to manipulate the perception of their predators, prey, or mates. For example, the fang blenny fish has evolved to mimic the behaviour of cleaner fish, allowing it to approach other fish and bite off a piece of their skin without being detected. Similarly, the paper wasp can manipulate the perception of its prey by pretending to be a harmless insect, only to reveal its true, aggressive nature when it’s too late.

Deception in the Animal Kingdom: Why It Matters

Deceptive behaviour in the animal kingdom is not just fascinating to observe, but it’s also essential for survival. In a world where predators and prey are constantly evolving and adapting, those who can deceive their opponents have a better chance of surviving and passing on their genes. Similarly, those who can deceive their own species have a better chance of securing mates and resources.

For example, male satin bowerbirds decorate their bowers with blue objects to attract females, even though they themselves are not blue. The blue objects create an optical illusion that makes the male appear bluer than he actually is, increasing his chances of attracting a mate. Similarly, male fiddler crabs wave their oversized claws to attract females, even though the size of the claw is not necessarily an indicator of the male’s fitness.

Deceptive behaviour is not limited to individual animals but can also occur at the group level. For example, meerkats are known to have sentinel individuals who keep watch for predators while the rest of the group forages for food. However, sometimes these sentinel individuals will fake an alarm call to get the rest of the group to return to the burrow, allowing the sentinel to have the food all to themselves.

The Art of Deception in the Animal Kingdom – Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins episode 5

Deceptive behaviour in the animal kingdom is a fascinating and essential survival tactic. From camouflage to mimicry, animals have evolved a range of tactics to deceive their predators, prey, and even their own species. By deceiving their opponents, animals increase their chances of survival and passing on their genes, ensuring the continuation of their species.

As humans, we may view deception as negative or unethical, but in the animal kingdom, it’s just another tool in the survival toolbox. By studying and understanding the art of deception in the animal kingdom, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity and diversity of life on Earth.

In the video you will find answers to this questions:

  • What are some examples of deceitful behavior in the animal kingdom?
  • How do animals use mimicry to survive?
  • Why is camouflage essential for animals in the wild?
  • What are some deceptive signals that animals use to mislead predators?
  • How does deception contribute to the survival of different species in the animal kingdom?
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