We’ve been taught to play well with others since we were children. In the animal kingdom, playing still usually ends with the stifled screams of the loser, because sports. Cooperative Hunting, as science has coined it, refers to animals that have taken advantage of teamwork in order to bring down prey they’d otherwise be unable to. Most of the time, cooperative hunters are discovered in understandable packaging such as wolves bringing down deer, or lionesses doing all the work and being fine with it for some reason. You know, covered in fur, with teeth, and the ability to make a fine new age poster when positioned on the moon.
Alas, nature’s into being all avant-garde and upsetting the norms, so cooperative hunting isn’t restricted to majestic animals. It’s not even restricted to less majestic animals, like African Wild Dogs or mongooses. No, sometimes animals team together just to frolic through your imagination with the blood of their prey smeared across their paws, claws, or tentacles like war paint. Teamwork is an effective survival tool and utilized by many of the cleverest predators. So the next time you’re presented with a team building exercise involving running under a parachute or trust falls, maybe you can instruct your seminar leader to take a cue from these animals and utilize the bonding power of murder.
5. Harris Hawks
Arguably, this is the least frightening animal on this list, in part because it would look fine on a T-shirt with planets and rainbows in the background. We know that birds of a feather supposedly flock together, but for the most part, birds of prey are solitary hunters. These birds may look familiar as they’re frequently used in the sport of falconry, which they must feel a bit misrepresented by.
While most birds hang out high above fields until something edible hops by, Harris Hawks have a couple methods they use to avoid death by starvation. The first method involves sending a group out to scout while one bird hangs out should something pop up, much like a group of stoners sending several members out to pick up sandwiches while one waits at the house in case the pizza delivery guy shows up first.
The second method used by these birds involves flushing out into an annihilation halo and ensuring that whatever doomed rabbit or lizard that sees them overhead shits itself before dying.
While this behavior closely resembles the dating etiquette of any dude group in a striped shirt and that douchebaggedy oversized baseball caps that enters a club, Harris Hawks actually carry their sociability into the child rearing duties and frequently nest in these small flocks.
4. Moray Eels & Grouper Fish
This first addition is unique in that these are members of different species. Symbiotic relationships exist in the natural world in all sorts of cute buddy cop ways, like those little birds and rhinoceroses. This is one of only two known instances of animals of different species meeting up and going, “What do you think about going into the killin’ business together?”
This odd couple defies all convention, being that fish don’t usually hunt together, and they certainly don’t foment with other species of fish to do so.
Grouper and Moray Eels don’t have a lot in common. Grouper tend to be ENFJ types that go swimming proudly in open water, whereas morays are your more sensitive INTP types that hang out in the crevices of coral reefs, comparing the modern careers of Morrissey and Roger Smith. But through some miracle or high school dare, one day a grouper came up to a Moray and suggested they go kill something together. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
When feeling hungry, a Grouper will likely approach a Moray Eel by shaking its head. Scientist originally thought this was a taunt from predator to predator rather than an execution of the underwater bat signal. To their surprise, the moray would leave its cozy crevice and follow the Grouper into the open water. If a grouper had tracked a fish that escaped by taking shelter within coral, the Moray Eel would ferret it out and the two would enjoy the kind of romantic dinner that comes after stalking and killing something by biting it to death.
Scientists aren’t quite sure if this is a learned behavior or something instinctual, as the participation, particularly of moray eels, tends to vary. This is also an indication these clever limbless nightmares are capable of learning from experience, which is more than can be said about most people.
This is about the part of the list where this becomes less about TIL animal trivia and more of a carnival of terror situation. You may remember crocodiles as the reptile that dropped the ball on taking out the zoologist that loved them. As it turns out, these toothed murder machines may not be all that frightening. Some nerds argue that we know less about the sociability of reptiles because they lack the ability to make facial expressions and lack essential scientific attribute of adorableness. Additionally, Crocodiles and other crocodilia (tell me you didn't read that as crocophilia) have slow metabolisms and hunt less frequently than anything warm blooded, which makes staking them out and waiting for a hunt about as action-packed as a buffering youtube video.
Recently, emboldened scientists with an immunity to how boring real life is have learned that these animals employ some of the trendiest hunting techniques for up-and-coming apex predators. A group of crocodiles will often circle a shoal of fish (we don't call them schools any more because it's offensive. Thanks America) in a tight circle. The group will then tighten the circle and take turns passing through it with jaws wide open and given fish the Ms. Pacman Treatment.
In fact, crocodiles seem to be far more into team sports. Another popular method involves the larger reptiles diving into deep water and scaring the bejeezus out of anything that lives down there so they swim into the shallow water, where they're consumed by smaller crocodiles. It's a really wonderful fairy tale that combines the sweetness of familial bonds with the terror of being eaten alive by trying to avoid being eaten alive.
2. Humboldt Squid
Everything on this list so far doesn’t really stretch believability, in part because they all have spines. Equal parts terrifying and fascinating, Humboldt Squid, or Diablo Rojo when it’s championing Lucha Libre, breaks the mold by being a flesh based creature that ostensibly doesn't seem like it could break a mold.
Little is known about how Humboldts communicate. So far, they have been observed flashing their chromatophores from white to bright red. Humboldts travel together in large shoals, and their hunting techniques, much like everything else are relatively unclear. Some research indicates that they travel up from the depths of hell in a spiral pattern, and coordinate by size. While we lack a lot of information about them, squids don't get together for reunions and picnics like the harris hawk or the goddamn crocodile. Nor do they seem as interested in helping out the little guys. In fact, the Humboldt, for reasons that are relatively unclear, they are prone to cannibalizing one another during their gatherings. As such, the smaller ones tend to give their larger family members a healthy amount of underwater-breathing room.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing examples of the power of Humboldt Squids involves a report of them capsizing a boat and killing seven fisherman.
Before you go off into the streets screaming KILL IT! KILL IT NOW! It should be noted that from little we know about the Humboldt Squid, they're actually very sensitive, intelligent creatures that approach strangers with curiosity rather than malice.
1. Social Spiders
Certain things are disconcerting enough when you see them individually: Kirby Salesmen, Ke$ha fans, and for most people, spiders. Dealing with one is already an uphill battle against terror and vomit, so imagine finding out that in a phylum completely unknown for being into potlucks and ice cream socials, there’s a species of spiders that gets together every Sunday and melts your dreams.
The phenomenon of sociable spiders doesn't contain much research. Somewhere in the world there was a count of 50,000 of Anelosimus eximius, preferably on a deserted island I'll never be near. Eusocial animals like ants or bees form colonies of insects that work together, but in these cases most of the colony is sterile. Social Spiders differ in that they're totally capable of makin' babies, but there appears to be 'personality traits' (aggressive warrior type and docile nanny type) that influence which spider will do what.
The idea of spiders hunting together is unpleasant and in many ways, evolutionarily unsound. Due to the surface-to-volume ratio, spider colonies may wind up producing too many animals to feed everyone adequately. The adaptation of creating wide webs allows spiders to entrap larger prey that they can share, because sharing is a trait we totally assume spiders value. What they do seem pretty keen on is knowing that they could kidnap a horrified animal far larger than any of them and devour it. It would be like if humans banded together as a worldwide Red Rover Chain, then swarmed Godzilla and ate him. World Hunger over.
This has been another hastily concluded installment of desperately avoiding writer's block. This article is more subject to change than the ones that are already subject to change.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.