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Amazing animals: Defence mechanisms with a difference

November 30, 2013

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Porcupine
Porcupine
Deep Sea Squid
Deep Sea Squid
Hairy Frog
Hairy Frog
Electric Eel
Electric Eel
Potato Beetles
Potato Beetles
Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar
Desert Horned Lizard
Desert Horned Lizard
Pacific Ocean Bagfish
Pacific Ocean Bagfish
Bombardier Beetle
Bombardier Beetle
Sea Cucumber
Sea Cucumber

SOME fascinating creatures that have evolved truly awesome defence systems which they deploy to survive and thrive in the wilderness. Let us take a look at some of these amazing and bizarre animals that live on the planet Earth.

ANIMAL Is use their defence mechanisms to fight, kill or escape from predators much bigger than themselves. This is very important for the survival of the species. Most animals that we know use their horns, claws and sharp teeth to protect themselves from their natural enemies. Some animals have the speed to outrun their pursuers, some can change colour to camouflage themselves while some wild animals eject certain poisons, odour or colour to escape from attacks.

Desert horned lizard

Found mostly in North America, this creature can shoot blood from its eyes to escape from its predators. When in danger, the desert horned lizard will first change its colour to camouflage itself. Then it will inflate and show off its spikes to make its predator think that it is too large and difficult to swallow.

If this does not deter a hungry predator, the horned lizard will squirt blood, which is quite foul smelling, from its eyes. I am sure this would destroy the appetite of most hunters, don’t you?

Turkey vulture

This bad mannered creature will vomit any undigested meat in its stomach all over you if you venture too close. The vomit smells terrible and can sting the skin and eyes of the predator. Hence, this vulture has very few enemies although many prefer to attack its eggs instead of the fully grown animal.

Bombardier beetle

This beetle species sprays a hot, toxic, chemical spray in the direction of the predator with great speed and accuracy. The beetle has two small glands located near the end of its abdomen. One gland produces hydrogen peroxide, and the other one produces hydroquinone.

When in danger, the chemicals get mixed in the “explosion chamber” and more enzymes get added. The beetle then makes a loud pop sound as it sprays the chemical mixture on the unlucky predator. Noisy and effective!

Pygmy sperm whale

Pygmy sperm whales use their body waste material to escape from their attackers. When in danger, they eject the reddish-brown waste material and whip it up with their tail so that the water turns murky. Their predators cannot see them enabling them to escape unharmed from sharks and orcas.

Deep-sea squid

When threatened, the squid attacks its predator and then pulls away, breaking off the tip of its own arm and leaving it behind as a distraction. The arm continues to glow and twitch, creating a diversion and enabling the squid to escape.

Pacific Ocean hagfish

The eel-shaped, slime-producing hagfish have been around for more than 300 million years. To protect themselves from larger marine animals, hagfish exude large quantities of milky and fibrous slime from their glands which expands when it mixes with the water. It is believed that this slime can actually suffocate predators by clogging their gills if they come in contact with it.

Potato beetles

Potato beetle larvae have a very smelly but effective way of warding off any predators. To avoid being eaten, they cover themselves in their own faecal matter which is quite poisonous. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it, but it ensures its chances of survival.

Opossum

These North American marsupials (animals who carry their young in a pouch, like a kangaroo) have developed quite different mechanisms when it comes to confusing their predators. Like skunks, they can emit foul-smelling, green fluids or foam at the mouth in an attempt to make their predators think that they are toxic or terribly sick and hence not fit for consumption. In extreme danger, they can go into a semi-comatose state and play dead to fool their attackers. They also emit a corpse-like smell to drive away their predators.

Malaysian exploding ant

Who would have thought that something as small and insignificant looking as ants could have such a deadly explosive self-defence mechanism. Like most ant species, Malaysian ants live in colonies.

If a predator attacks their colony, groups of these exploding ants march right up to the enemy. Then they contract their abdomen, which causes the venom-filled glands to rupture, spraying poison at the threat. The ants die too, but not before they take the enemy down.

Sea cucumber

When a sea cucumber senses danger, it can effectively scatter itself into pieces and then reassemble, once the danger is gone. Even more amazing is its ability to turn itself inside out so that the toxic juices in its digestive tract can poison its enemies.

Other methods of protection include expulsion of its organs. This distracts their predator and enables them to swim to freedom. If something goes missing, it takes the sea cucumber around six weeks to completely regenerate its missing body part. Isn’t that incredible?

Northern fulmar

The northern fulmar is found in the subarctic regions of the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans. The babies of the northern fulmar may look like cute little, fluffy white chicks but they have evolved a unique defence mechanism that makes them truly horrible to consume.

When under threat from predatory eagles or bird watchers, the fulmar chick will projectile a stream of putrid bright orange vomit all over the intruding creature’s face. The oil in the vomit causes the feathers of the predatory bird to stick together so that it can no longer fly and falls to its death.

The hairy frog

Frogs with claws! You might think this is some concept out of a horror movie but the hairy frog, a frog species from Central African forests can actually sprout claws like Hugh Jackman in the movie Wolverine.

When in danger, the hairy frog cracks its own toe bones and pushes them through the skin to form sharp claws. Absolutely great for scaring the living daylights out of a would-be attacker!

Spanish ribbed newts

The hairy frog is not the only amphibian that can use its own bones as weapons. When attacked, the Spanish ribbed newt pushes out its ribs through its stretched skin. The resulting effect is a row of spikes on either side of its body to deter its predators and saves it from being bitten.

The electric eel

The body of an electric eel contains electric organs with about 6,000 specialised cells called electrocytes which store power like tiny batteries. When threatened or attacking prey, these cells discharge simultaneously, emitting a burst of at least 600 volts. That is enough electricity to keep any predator at bay.

African crested porcupines

These creatures give the term ‘body piercing’ a whole new meaning. Nature has endowed this animal with quills and enough intelligence to use them cleverly. When under threat, the porcupine charges backward or sideways to stab the quills into the predator.

Or, it may stop suddenly, causing the predator to run headlong into the needle-like quills. The quills can rupture skin and even internal organs and are sharp enough to ward off attacks from lions, hyenas, leopards, etc.

However clever, resourceful and amazing the animal kingdom might be, they have no answer for the biggest threat that they face. Deforestation, deep sea mining, over-fishing, global warming and human activities are a constant threat to these animals that play such an important role in maintaining the ecosystem. It is such a tragedy that no amount of defence mechanisms can save them from the humans on this planet.