18 min read

The Most Remarkable (And Disgusting) Animal Defenses Of All Time

6 Of The Most Disgusting Animal Defenses In Nature

By Carly Brooke, The Featured Creature


Oh nature, you clever, clever thing. Always giving animals wonderfully weird and absolutely revolting techniques to stay off the dinner table. Below, find six of the strangest and grossest defense strategies employed by a variety of creatures. Oh, you might want to read this after dinner -- just to be safe.

Hagfish

Photo: seaturtlecamp.com

Starting off the list of weird animals with absolutely disgusting defense strategies is the particularly handsome hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii).

These jawless, spineless denizens of the deep are a throwback to the Paleozoic Era when fish evolved. Using feelers located on the ends of its face, the hagfish locates dead and rotting animals that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor. Swarms of hagfish will penetrate the decomposing carcass and feast on the body from the inside out. It uses its razor sharp teeth to bite and tear rotting flesh right off the bones. (It's a good thing the poor animal is dead when all of this is happening because, boy, that sounds painful).

Ferocious fangs aren't the reason this weird fish is included in the list, however. Hagfish have an entirely revolting trick up their sleeves to avoid predators. When disturbed, the hagfish will ooze proteins from slime glands in its skin that interact with the surrounding water to form a thick, slimy outer coating which ultimately expands into an enormous mass of slime. In fact, deep-sea diving equipment has been thwarted from reaching its final destination in the past by large amounts of hagfish slime, produced when the fish are alarmed.


Photo:gogonews.com

Now, you'd think that people would want to have as little contact with this nasty slime as possible. But no, humans are can sometimes be stranger than the creatures featured here. Some researchers envision the hagfish slime to create clothes for us to wear. Yes -- someday we might see Marc Jacobs sending a line of hagfishware down the catwalk. You see, as of right now most synthetic fabrics (like nylon and spandex) are made using oil and, as we all know, oil is a dwindling resource. A new source will be needed in the future and that's where hagfish slime comes in. Trendy.


Photo: thefrisky.com

There are a few reasons why the slime might be useful in the fashion world: it's incredibly strong, easily stretched, and when it dries, the texture becomes silky. While a hagfish only reaches up to a foot in length, one animal alone contains hundreds of miles of slime.That's why researchers are attempting to replicate the proteins of hagfish slime -- in order to be able to manufacture an artificial product with similar properties.


Photo: Steve Metildi

This bird, first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1761, looks very similar to your standard sea gull, however it is actually a member of Procellariidae family, which include petrels and shearwaters instead of gulls.

The word fulmar actually means "foul gull," and that's exactly why this bird makes this list. The young chicks of the Northern Fulmar have evolved a unique defense mechanism that turns them into incredibly unsavory morsels. Though, from simply looking at them you would never guess that these fluffy birds are revolting creatures.

Photo: George Stoyle

Sweet little chick?

Photo: Shetlandpetrels.blogspot.com

Perhaps not. The true face of nasty is masked by a docile facade.

When confronted by anything -- from predatory eagles to an unsuspecting passerby -- the fulmar chick will projectile vomit all over the intruding creature's face. The stream of bright orange puke gives off a rotten fish smell that lingers.

Photo: Annelies Leeuw

There's more to this puke than its putrid stench. When a feathered predator tries to flee the island of misfortune into the water, the vomit oil coating their feather will take away their buoyancy -- meaning they end up drowning. Lovely little birds these Fulmars are, wouldn't you agree?

Pygmy Sperm Whale

photo: WaterFrame/Alamy The pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) is actually one of three species of toothed whales in the sperm whale family. At birth they are about 3 ft and 11 in in length but mature to around 11 feet. Adults weigh about 880 lbs. They are hardly ever spotted at sea because they prefer to remain in off-shore waters at depths of anywhere from 1,300 to 3,300 ft. This explains why most of the information (of which there is little) comes from stranded specimens. In fact, the total population of this species isn't even known!


Size compared to an average human!

What we do know about this whale is something pretty darn nasty. Since pygmy sperm whales don't have the size advantage of their cousins, they had to come up with another defense strategy in moments of danger. When faced with a predator attack from dolphins or sharks, the pygmy sperm whale will secrete an anal syrup into the water. The whale then stirs up the water with its fins to create a giant poo cloud in which it can take cover in.

Photo:Tony Wu

No predator wants to venture into that! And this is just what the pygmy sperm whale is banking on. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, they aren't only able to produce one cloud at a time. Oh no, these whales will keep on producing poo clouds if they are pursued -- until the aggressor gives up.

Photo:Tony Wu

(I'd nope the heck out of there at the first meet and greet with the stinky poo cloud of doom. Sharks and Dolphins must have a much higher tolerance for diluted whale crap than I do...)

Leopard Sea Cucumber

Photo: Zubi

Ah, the sea cucumber. One of nature's weirdest creations, in my humble opinion. This particular species is the leopard sea slug (Bohadschia argus), which is shaped like a sausage with various dark spots surrounded by white haloes. It can grow up to two feet in length.

What makes this creature so wonderfully disgusting is its remarkable defense mechanism. When threatened, the sea cucumber will begin to violently shake its body until it has expelled its sticky intestines and other organs ... out of its anus. The sticky intestines latch onto the attacker, entangling it in this morose web. This really throws the predator off track and usually sends it on its way.

Photo: Wolfgang Poelzer In some species of sea cucumber, the intestines are poisonous. They contain a toxic chemical called holothurin, which really irritates the skin of the offending creature.

While this whole process might seem quite exhausting and elaborate -- I mean, think about it, wouldn't you be tired after spitting out all of your guts from your butt? -- it's actually not such a strain for the sea cucumber. It takes around six weeks for its missing body parts to be completely regenerated. Isn't that incredible? I mean it's really, really gross ... but still incredible.

Horned Lizard

photo: Amy_b

As you might deduct from the photo above, the horned lizard's coloration proves very useful when camouflaging itself in its rocky and arid environment. However, hiding is only the first line of defense for this rather diminutive lizard species, which can grows on average to 2.7 inches from snout to vent. When it really feels like it's in trouble, the Texas horned lizard will restrict the blood flow leaving its head, which increases its blood pressure until it ruptures the tiny blood vessels around its eyelids. The lizards are able to squirt an aimed stream of blood with precision for a distance that can reach up to five feet!


Photo:Dave Beaudette

Not only does the blood squirting confuse predators, but the blood allegedly tastes pretty gross which makes the lizard appear unappetizing. The foul flavor can only be detected by feline and canine predators, however. So if the danger posed to the lizard comes in the form of a bird, the lizard might utilize another of its tricks to make a smooth getaway.

Other than camaflogue, the horned lizard might puff up its body to appear larger -- and more intimidating -- than it actually is. It almost might it might elevate its head so that the sharp horns on its cranium are aimed at the would-be attacker, or run in short bursts and then stop in order to confuse the predator's visual acuity.

Photo: The Horned Jack Lizard

Cereal Leaf Beetle Photo:Ken

So the above beetle looks like a nice enough insect, right? It's sort of attractive with its iridescent blue wing plates and red body and at only 3/16 inch in length how bad could it be ... right?

Well, to start, these cereal leaf beetles (Oulema melanopus or Lema melanopa) are major agricultural pests. They decimate crop populations of wheat, oats, barley, rye and other grasses. Serious eradication efforts didn't begin in the United States until 1960s when entire oat fields were being destroyed. To stop the bugs from completely ruining the crop population, parasitic wasps were introduced in an attempt to have them feast on the insects and bring them into submission. Insecticides were also employed. While the fact that it's a major nuisance to farmers is upsetting, nothing is quite as disturbing as the defense mechanism employed by the larvae of the cereal leaf beetle.

Photo:Claude Pilon

What you see above is the larvae of the cereal beetle... covered in its own feces. Let us let out a collective "eww." The larvae will coat themselves in this jelly substance that contains expelled poop.

Photo:Giles San Martin

This particular larva shown above has another hitchhiker -- other than the load of poop fastened to its back: a baby parasitic wasp. You can see it if you look closely; it's right in the front between the last two legs looking like a tiny worm. The wasp larva will ultimately eat the beetle larva and emerge from its skin once its done with its pooptastic meal. Mmmm... delish!

Photo:Pudding4Brains

These photos show what the larvae look like without the jelly poop casing across its back. It still looks slug-like, but no where near as stomach-churning as the top left photo of the series (the poop master).

So there you have it. Six of the most disgusting animal defenses in nature summed up just for you. Hope you enjoyed! If so, please take a moment to share with your friend who could use a good "I think I'm going to throw up" moment. I know we're all always lusting after those, after all....