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Hunting is dangerous; even for the predator, hunting can result in death. There have been countless example where a predator was killed by what was supposed to be prey. Animals have evolved many ways to combat this; from a cat's pouch, to a wolf's pack, to a bear's size. Another idea that to my knowledge does not exist is putting prey to sleep.

Could a predator that uses heavy amounts of pheromones as sleeping gas exist? What would the evolution of such a creature be?

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    $\begingroup$ Some animals scream at their prey to paralyze them. others throw wave bullets to oneshoot them, others use strenght overwhelming methods... all these are violent options that animals prefer... sleep pheromones seems something a plant would use and not a violent predator. $\endgroup$ – five more beats Aug 5 '16 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ Do politicians count? After all they talk their prey (voters) into some kind of brainless state where they start acting self destructive (by voting for them), which is even more dangerous than sleeping (because the brain is still active during sleep) $\endgroup$ – Confused Merlin Aug 5 '16 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin Marketer was also an acceptable answer. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Aug 5 '16 at 13:12
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Check out the cone snail.

Cone snails like to stupefy their victims (see also Safavi-Hemami et al. (2014)) by either

  • Using an extremely fast "harpoon" with venom to stab their prey.
  • Releasing a small cloud of dense insulin to daze their prey, which is used for slower-moving animals. The cloud may then kill the prey. This isn't used quite as often, but it's still possible.

Note that cone snails are aquatic, and so the cloud forms and spreads underwater. However, I see no reason to believe that a) this couldn't be used in the air, and b) a larger terrestrial creature couldn't evolve to use it.


The tobacco hornworm also releases a cloud of gas into the air (see also Kumar et al. (2013)), but it's used as a defense mechanism against predators, and it can kill the predators, rather than put them to sleep. However, it shows that clouds of gases can be released in the air and have potent effects against enemies; a predator could use the same mechanism as the tobacco hornworm.

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What if the predator mesmerizes the prey by flashing colored patterns on its skin? Many octopus species can change their skin color, and cuttlefish can even flash strobing patterns.

A large amphibian with cuttlefish-like skin might be able to lull its prey to sleep. At least it would be a link in the evolutionary chain.

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This could be an ambush predator of the type that digs a burrow and lies in wait of its prey. Something like an antlion. The predator has a pit that acts as a trap and while it lies in wait it exhales carbon dioxide into the trap. CO2 being heavier than air it will accumulate in the pit.

The prey species drops into the gas-filled trap and provided the air-CO2 mix is right or close enough this will act as an aesthetic gas. The prey will be anaesthetized and falls 'asleep'. Next thing it's munchies time. Good for the predator, but not so good for the prey.

Most probably this form of predation will only work with small organisms. Creatures the size of spiders and ants, and similar. However, old mine shafts do tend to accumulate CO2 and this can be fatal for the unwary. Perhaps, if the environment is right and if the predator can dig its trap deep enough to connect with underground fissures then this might provide a natural source of CO2. So larger predators and prey using Co2 anaesthesia might be larger organisms.

With humans 30% CO2 mixed with 70% oxygen results in intoxication leading to unconsciousness. See here. This suggests that if a predator can set a trap filled with enough CO2 it might anaesthetize its prey. While this isn't exactly inducing sleep in its prey anaesthesia is the next best thing.

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  • $\begingroup$ According to wikipedia, CO2 concentrations of as low as 7% can be fatal in a few minutes. 30% CO2 would be overkill on the CO2, while 70% Oxygen would be very hard to make because most organisms lack a way to increase the concentration. $\endgroup$ – Jarred Allen Aug 7 '16 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ @JarredAllen The figures I quoted were in a technical paper. See link above. Eons ago I saw a figure of 4% CO2 air mixture working as an anaesthetic, but I don't have a citation for that figure. I agree organism won't be able to increase the O2 concentration, but that was what the paper said. Easy to extrapolation from that, that air-CO2 mixtures could do the deed. Glad someone noticed the point about oxygen concentration. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 8 '16 at 4:11

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