10 of the Most Bizarre Animal Defense Mechanisms
The frog that breaks its own legs and grows claws. The beetle that sprays a jet of boiling fluid at predators. The fish that engulfs its enemy in a thick casing of slime. The ant that explodes. These are just a few of the incredibly unusual ways animals have evolved to defend themselves against predators. If you enjoyed learning about the strangest endangered animals on earth, be prepared for even more oddities with this list of strange animal defense mechanisms. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Malaysian exploding ant
(Image via cafeguaguau)
You know Malaysian ants – always exploding all over themselves, ruining the fun. All kidding aside, it’s really true. Malaysian ants internally combust under threat, causing their bodies to explode (they wait until their enemies are close enough to die before detonating). Camponotus saundersi soldier ants have large glands full of poison inside their bodies. When they sense a threat, they contract their abs, causing the glands on either side of their bodies to explode and spray poison.
(Images via reefseekers and alaskaunderseatours)
The sea cucumber can literally take on different body states – from hard to liquid – in order to defend itself. From wikipedia: “Like other echinoderms the cuke has a type of collagen in its skin capable of excreting or absorbing more water effectively changing from a ‘liquid’ to a ‘solid.’ They can turn their bodies into mush, climb through small cracks and then solidify into small lumps so that they cannot be extracted.” Even more amazing than effectively scattering yourself into pieces of your collective whole and then reassembling: the ability to turn yourself inside out so that your digestive tract’s toxic juices poison your enemies. Yeah, the sea cucumber can do that, too. Do not mess.
(Images via myfoxmaine and NOAA)
The Pacific Ocean Hagfish has a disgusting way of defending itself. When under attack, it oozes a suffocating slime from its many pores that envelops its predator in a fatal mass of fibrous goo. The hagfish, unfortunately, sometimes falls prey to its own defense mechanism, but normally it twists itself into knots to escape the gelatinous goop.
(Images via New Scientist)
The hairy frog or “horror frog” intentionally breaks its own bones to turn out a wicked set of cat-like claws. Like Wolverwine, only slimy and a lot more terrifying because it’s a freaking frog. Scientists don’t know if the claw is able to retract once it pierces through the skin. According to New Scientist: “Trichobatrachus robustus actively breaks its own bones to produce claws that puncture their way out of the frog’s toe pads, probably when it is threatened.” Also, it is apparently hairy. This doesn’t stop Cameroon locals from spearing and roasting hairy frogs as a tasty snack.
(Images via Canterbury)
Oh, there’s nothing like a pulsating jet of foul boiling anal fluid to say “Howdy, neighbor!” The bombardier beetle may look innocent enough, but it is famous for being able to spray boiling hot and chemically toxic bodily fluids in the direction of any would-be predator. The bombardier beetle doesn’t exactly melt in your mouth (but it will melt you).
(Image via salamandarcandy)
The horned lizard is a seemingly normal looking lizard found in the southwest region of the United States. It doesn’t use its horns to defend itself, as you might expect. Rather, when attacked, it pressures its own sinus cavities until the blood vessels in its eyes burst, and it sprays its attacker with blood from its eyes.
(Image via Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources)
The skunk, or polecat, is actually an attractive little mammal and some people keep them as pets (sans glands, of course). Skunks are omnivores but will turn to trash and carrion when no fresh insects or honeybees, their favorite food, are available. Though their amazing musk can be smelled miles away, their vision is exceptionally weak, and most skunks can only see about 10 feet in front of them. As a result, many are run over – half of all skunk deaths, in fact, are due to humans. All Mustelidae family members (like weasels and ferrets) can spray musk, but skunks are famously the most potent. The skunk’s anal musk is so powerful that if sprayed directly, the victim will experience temporary blindness.
(Image via animalphotos)
The cute little opossum has a number of tricks up its defensive sleeve. It can play dead. It can foam at the mouth in an attempt to convince its predators that it is toxic, sick or perhaps just bat sh*t insane. It can also emit a green anal fluid that smells nearly as bad as a skunk’s offensive spray (though mercifully it can easily be washed off). Opossums playing dead actually slip into a semi-comatose state, thus removing any excitement of the kill for a predator.
(Image via NCSU)
Like our little friend the komodo dragon, potato beetle babies (larvae) cover themselves in their own poop to avoid being eaten. Unlike baby komodos, the potato beetle’s feces are actually poisonous to predators. Smelly but effective!