It’s a dog eat dog world out there in the wild. LITERALLY. The hungry wild-mouse eats the grasshopper, the scorpion attacks the mouse, the meerkat has the scorpion for lunch and the jackal devours the meerkat. Such is the circle of life. Most animals are known to defend themselves against dangerous predators by either running away or attacking back. Others, however, choose to be more original in their choice of defense. Here’s a list of 10 animals that, in the rat race for the survival of the fittest, may not actually be the fittest or the largest but are definitely the most creative and ingenious in their attempts to defend themselves from becoming part of the food-chain.
1. Horned Lizard
Beware of this little bad boy! The Horned Lizard is a bizarre, spiny, ant-eating lizard unlike any other lizard ever known. It uses a variety of defense mechanisms to avoid predation such as camouflage, puffing out its body or running in short bursts to confuse its enemy. But the oddest defense mechanism of these all is when the lizard protects itself by squirting blood from its own eye at attackers. It does this by building high pressure in its sinus cavities until blood vessels in its eyes burst allowing it to spray blood at the predator with the precision of a sniper rifle! Wow or Eww? You decide.
Hagfish are elongated, under-water creatures with eel-like bodies. When under attack, they fight their enemy by oozing profuse quantities of a fibrous, sticky slime which turns into a thick gel when combined with water. They then clean themselves off in a wringing motion by twisting themselves into a knot which works its way from the head to the tail of the animal, removing the slime. This peculiar behaviour helps them extract themselves out of the mouths of their captors. The suffocating slime not only distracts their enemies, but also envelops the smaller ones into a mass of jelly-like goo, thus stifling them to death. An adult hagfish can secrete enough slime to turn a 20 litre bucket of water into goo within minutes. And in one secretion it produces about a milk-jug worth of slime. What an icky mess!
3. Sea Cucumbers
Whoever thought that the liquid-metal bad guy in Terminator 2 with his ability to mould himself into any shape without breaking, and to flow under doorways was cool, here’s something even cooler. When under attack, the sea cucumbers can change their body states and morph themselves from solid to liquid and vice versa in milliseconds. Not only that, but they have the ability to scatter their bodies into a soppy goo, seep through fissures and cracks and then reassemble into small lumps. The icing on the cake is their knack for turning themselves inside out so that their toxic digestive juices poison and kill their enemies. Cooler that the terminator villain? Yeah, I thought so too!
4. Baby Potato Beetle
What’s soft, juicy, tasty-looking and unprotected by a hard covering? A potato beetle larva on the lunch menu of hungry birds and grasshoppers. These tiny babies do not develop a hard outer coating or shell till they are adults, so to prevent themselves from being devoured by larger animals, they try to make themselves less appealing by covering themselves with their own poo! The faeces are poisonous, gross, smelly and extremely toxic to anyone who eats it. A perfect shield against enemies!
5. Slow Loris
You may have never heard of this animal but here’s one way to describe it: a poisonous primate. Yes, you read that right! Poisonous and Primate? How is that possible you say? Well here’s how. The Slow Loris, as its name suggests, is a painfully slow-moving creature thus making it a vulnerable prey. To make up for its inherent slowness and well… un-coolness, it comes equipped with a supercool survival kit. The Slow Loris has poison glands on its elbows! As if that wasn’t odd enough, the Slow Loris keeps the enemy away by licking its elbows and coating the poison all over itself and even its offspring before leaving them to search for food. Making it more bizarre, is its snake-like ability to lick and suck the poison into its mouth and biting the venom into its enemy, causing them to go into anaphylactic shock or simply die. Not cool enough for you? Well, try licking YOUR elbows. Go on, just try it.
Why anyone would want to hurt these adorable, loveable, cute little creatures is beyond me. However, they are usually fully prepared against an attack because they have a very interesting defensive method up their sleeve. Usually, they try to escape their predators by fleeing or biting but when all else fails, it’s time to switch to Plan B which involves losing a body part as a defense mechanism, a phenomenon called autonomy. You see, what happens is that the skin in the dormouse’s tail is very loose, and if a predator grabs the tiny little critter by the tail, the skin comes off allowing the dormouse to escape. Amazing eh? But here’s the catch. The dormouse can use this trick only once in its lifetime because after the skin is gone, the remaining bone is either gnawed off by the rodent itself or left to fall off naturally.
7. Malaysian Ants
These loyal little members of the class Insecta are so protective of their colonies that they commit suicide and blow themselves up into a thousand bits of organic dust should they feel a threat approaching, thus effectively killing not only their enemies… but themselves too! Ok so maybe they are NOT the smartest creatures alive but hey, give them credit for their devotion towards their tiny tribe. So, here’s how the self-detonation works. Malaysian ants have large glands full of poison inside their bodies. When they sense an attacker, they contract their abs, and release their glandular contents from the head causing it to spontaneously combust, explode and spray poison everywhere! Talk about going out with a BANG!
8. Hairy Frog
Remember wolverine and his famous claws? He looks SO cool when he’s standing in his signature pose, claws piercing through the skin between his knuckles, defying all logic of human physiology. But when a hairy, freaky-looking amphibian attempts to do the same thing, it’s just scary beyond all reason! When it senses danger, the Hairy Frog actively breaks its own bones to produce claws that puncture their way out of the frog's toe pads. It is believed that the tip of the leg bone is shaped like a sharp claw and is connected to a muscle. When this muscle is contracted, it pulls the claw downwards, breaking it away from the rest of the bone and emerging from the underside of the toe pad.
9. Crested Porcupine
These naughty critters give the term ‘acupuncture’ a whole new meaning. When threatened, the African crested porcupines raise and rattle their quills to make themselves look bigger and scare the attacker away. If all fails, the perturbed creature will charge backward or sideways to stab the quills into the predator. Or, it may stop suddenly, causing the predator to run into the quills. These quills break off easily and once they enter the predator’s body, tiny barbs in the tip actually pull them deeper into the wound rupturing blood vessels and even internal organs. OUCH! These attacks are known to have killed lions, leopards, hyenas, and even humans. Interesting fact: these porcupines have natural antibiotics in their body to prevent them from developing an infection if they fall from trees and accidentally stab themselves!
Don’t be fooled by its soft, furry and seemingly harmless exterior, for when it comes to defenses, these little furballs are super geniuses. The opossum usually reacts to danger by feigning death; it falls to the ground, foams at the mouth as if it was very ill, and then remains stock-still, with its mouth open, teeth barred and producing a rancid smelling green liquid from its anal glands. The oddest thing about the opossum’s defense mechanism is that it is a subconscious, psychological response to danger rather than a conscious one. Since predators prefer to kill their own prey, they lose interest in the apparently comatose animal and leave. Cute, cuddly and CLEVER!