The most famous animal that plays dead is the possum. In fact ' Don't play possum' is a famous phrase used when you want someone to pay attention to the situation and not appear appear dead and aloof.
Animals play dead for 2 main reasons:
To ward off predators
It's not healthy for a predator to eat an 'already-dead' animal because the dead animal could be rotten, diseased or poisoned. (This is one why reason people are instructed to lay down and play dead when seeing a bear).
Examples of animals that play dead to ward off predators are:
Sharks - When a shark is flipped belly up it plays dead
Hognose snake -when in danger, the hognose snake flips belly-up, opens its mouth wide and sometimes causes blood drops to drip off the sides. It then realeases a nasty, deatly smell.
Examples of animals that play dead to hunt are:
Fish - the Parachromis friedrichsthalii fish plays dead so that when smaller fish swim passed it- Gulp! he eats them up!
Beetles- The pselaphid beetle plays dead and tricks ants to bringing it to the main nest. When inside the beetel springs to life and munches on all the ants.
Note: Playing dead can be caused by an involuntary reflex called tonic immobility – which is outside an organism's control – and thanatosis, where death is knowingly being feigned and is under an organism's control. .