Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7 animals that steal from others

Oh, these cunning creatures. In behavior that requires athleticism and grace as well as planning and decision making, kleptoparasitic animals prove that it really is a dog-eat-dog world out there. Using this sly foraging strategy, animal thieves steal food already procured by other animals. If you’ve ever had a brazen seagull snatch a sandwich from your picnic at the beach, you’ve played host to a kleptoparasite. And gulls aren't the only guileful ones the following are some of the animals especially adept at pulling a fast one when it comes to pilfering a meal.

Chinstrap penguins
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Obviously, the charming chinstrap detail was designed to mimic a smile to distract from the fact that these cutie-pie penguins are prone to robbing others' nests of materials to use for their own. While most commonly kleptoparasitism refers to animals that steal food, lifting shelter materials from others gains the chinstrap penguin entry into this motley crew.

Sperm whales
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We humans have been so rough on the whales, it would be hard to be a member of Team Whale and not feel a glimmer of glee about this. In one of the best, "Oh yeah? Take that" moments in the battle of man vs. nature, sperm whales habitually pilfer fish from fishermen. In Alaska, sperm whales are estimated to pick at least 5 to 10 percent of sablefish off of longlines, and sperm whales have also been spotted sneaking fish from nets. Yes, it's rough on the fisherman, but still. Justice through kleptoparasitism is kind of awesome.

Western gulls
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Some seabirds, like the elegant tern pictured here on the right, dive into the depths to capture fish. Other seabirds, like the Western gull pictured on the left, are not diving birds. So how is a non-diving bird supposed to catch fish? Straight from the beak of a diving bird, naturally and if that fails, there are always plenty of sandwiches at the beach ripe for the picking.

Dewdrop spiders
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Spiders from the Argyrodes genus, commonly known as dewdrop spiders, are some of the brassiest kleptoparasites around. Not only do they steal prey from other spiders' webs, but they invade and move into said webs as well. While the relationship can be beneficial to both spiders since the dewdrop will clean up smaller prey that would otherwise litter the web, things can turn grim quickly when the invading spider decides to devour the host as well.

Water crickets
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Hyenas
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Hyenas are no laughing matter. Haha. But really, a quick image search reveals any number of photos of fierce-looking hyenas gadding about with things like severed bloody zebra heads in their maws. They are fascinating creatures, but they don't mess around; an adult spotted hyena can rip off and devour 30 or 40 pounds of flesh per feeding. And while they are very adept hunters, they have no problem chasing off a pride of lions to finish off the lion's share.

Cuckoo bees
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Much in the way its namesake, the cuckoo bird, lays eggs in another bird's nest, the cuckoo bee also displays similar parasitism. But whereas the cuckoo bird chick is then raised by the other bird as its own, the cuckoo bee's plotline takes an even more sinister turn. Mama cuckoo bee lays her eggs in another bee’s nest, but the cuckoo bee larvae hatches earlier than others, allowing it to feed on the provisions in store for the home bee's larvae. And then the cuckoo bee babies, with their extra-large mandibles, make mincemeat of the other larvae as well.

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