6 min read

Oddball Underdogs: 7 Animals With Bizarre Defense Mechanisms

1. Horned Lizards.
Horned lizards have perhaps one of creepiest and most surreal natural deterrents ever: they can shoot blood from their eyeballs. The reptiles accomplish this gruesome feat by constricting the blood vessel around their eyelids until they rupture. Not only does this completely and utterly confuse predators (I mean, can you blame them?), but the blood also tastes and smells quite foul.

Flickr: Joshua Tree National Park

2. Pygmy Sperm Whales.
These small whales are roughly the same size as dolphins, and are some of the smallest members of the toothed whale group -- but that doesn't mean they allow themselves to get pushed around. These whales are capable of discharging a reddish-brown intestinal "ink" from their anus if they feel threatened. Not much is known about the fluid, but it is suspected that the red hue is meant to either resemble blood, or act as a warning color. In the end, it probably doesn't matter, because shooting dark liquid out of your anus sounds like a pretty surefire way to clear a room.

3. Opossums.
Everybody knows that opossums are notorious for "playing dead" as a means of duping predators. However, this physiological tactic is a totally involuntary trait that is really more akin to fainting. The opossum drops down, with its mouth partially open and foaming, and a foul-smelling secretion comes out of its anus. Once this rigor mortis-like state has been induced, it typically takes the opossum forty minutes to four hours to snap out of it.

Flickr: Monica R.

4. Dormice.
The little dormouse is pretty unassuming at first glance. However, it possesses a trait that is unusual to most mammals: autotomy. This means that, should a predator grab onto the dormouse's tail, the tail will become detached and the dormouse can scurry away. However, unlike lizards and other reptiles, the dormouse can only perform this magic trick once-- its tail is detachable, but does not regenerate.

5. Hairy frogs.
These amphibians are unusual-looking to begin with, as they are covered in bristly hair-like structures (hence their name, of course). However, these frogs also have a pretty extreme method of warding off enemies. They can break the bones in their feet and project them through the skin to act as makeshift "claws," which they can then retract as the tissue heals. So, they're essentially the Wolverines of the amphibian world!


6. Hagfish.
It's probably not surprising that a creature called the "hagfish" might have a certain propensity for bizarreness, but their methods of self-defense are really quite extraordinary. The eel-like creature produces a great deal of "slime," which oozes out through the glands along its body. If a predator has grabbed onto the hagfish, the hagfish can excrete enough slime to completely coat itself, thereby allowing it to slip out of the enemy's grasp. This is unofficially known as "sliming" the enemy.

7. Sea Cucumbers.
These deep sea echinoderms may have the most extreme natural weaponry of all. When some species of sea cucumber feel threatened, they can discharge their organs through their anus, and then quickly regenerate them. It's pretty safe to say that this is an effective method for scaring off any antagonizers -- because ejecting your own organs and then automatically growing them back is basically the definition of magic.