Animals: 20 Strange Natural Defense Mechanisms of Animals

Animals: 20 Strange Natural Defense Mechanisms of Animals

All living things would do pretty much anything to survive and to insure the survival of their offspring. Some animals go above and beyond the call of duty to ward off potential threats and go through some pretty rigorous and bizarre transformations to protect themselves and their families.

Take, for example, the “horror frog” (also known as the “hairy frog). To defend themselves, these amphibians intentionally break their own bones to turn out an impressive set of claws, just like the X-Men’s Wolverine! (For more on the horror frog, check out the Oddee list: “10 Incredible Tales of Cracks”)



Heading our list is the cuttlefish. This undersea creature isn’t actually a fish, but a mollusk, more closely to a squid or octopus. Much like their undersea kin, they have tentacles around their mouth and shoot ink to ward off predators.

The cuttlefish also has the amazing ability to camouflage. These animals can display bright colors to defend themselves from predators and can also transform the shape of their entire bodies. They also use this ability during mating –  some male cuttlefish have even been known to make themselves look like female cuttlefish in order to trick the dominant males and steal their mates.

 After hypnotizing their prey with their colors, they use two long tentacles with suction cups that shoot from their bodies and draw their victims into their mouths within a few hundreds of a second.

The largest of the species is the Australian Cuttlefish, which can grow more than 20 inches long and weigh more than 10 pounds.


2. Texas horned lizard

The Texas horned lizard takes defending itself to the extreme! Also known as the Phrynosoma cornutum, this lizard has been deemed the Texas State Reptile.

The horned lizard could use its horns to defend itself, but when provoked it does something that is truly eye-opening! When threatened, the lizard pressures its sinus cavities until the blood vessels in its eyes burst, spraying its attacker with blood from its eyes! The streams of blood can shoot as far as 5 feet. The reptile loses a third of its blood supply this way.

Even with a defense mechanism this awesome, these lizards are disappearing at an alarming rate. Their status is currently listed as “threatened.”


3.Motyxia sequoiae


This species of millipedes takes “Don’t say I didn’t warn you” to heart. During the day, the Motyxia sequoiae looks like your standard type of millipede, but at night, when threatened, these anthropods become bioluminescent. In other words, they glow-in-the-dark like a firefly! Sometimes a little light isn’t enough to keep the bad guys away, though. When disturbed further, the millipedes ooze toxic cyanide and foul-tasting chemicals from small pores running along the sides of their bodies as a pretty effective defense mechanism.

Scientists are still baffled as to exactly why these creatures are glow-in-the-dark. They are blind, so they can’t send messages by using their glow. They are also vegetarians, so they don’t use their natural illumination to draw in prey.

It is believed that these poisonous millipedes are thought to display bright colors to warnpredators that they possess toxins and to steer clear.


4.The hairy frog

Party trick: Hairy frogs from the Cameroon have revealed a remarkable mechanism that causes thorn-like claws to burst through the skin when it is threatened

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.


5.Bombadier Beetle 

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).


6. Malaysian Exploding Ant

Camponotus saundersi (right) exploding in the face of an attacker (left). This results in the two being glued together. Picture by Mark Moffet (Minden Pictures/FLPA)

malaysian exploding ant


Malaysian exploding ant-Malaysian ants internally combust under threat, causing their bodies to explode (they wait until their enemies are close enough to die before detonating).


It appears as though it is the mandibular gland that makes the ant explode.  The mandibular gland is most commonly used for digestive enzymes in most ant species, but it is massively expanded in the Malaysian exploding ant. The mandibular gland is so massive in this ant that it even extends into its abdomen, occupying a large space there. They initially started using this gland for digestion, but when they began to use the secretions for self defence, the glands grew to their present day size. But they have one more secret to reveal. The secretions from their glands, and explosion is extremely sticky. S sticky in fact that it can immobilize the appendages of their attackers.


7. Beetle Equiped with Fecal Shield

Photo of a Cereal Leaf Beetle Larva, by Giles San Martin, used under a Creative Commons License.

The fecal shield is a structure formed by the larvae of many species of beetles in the leaf beetle family, Chrysomelidae. It is composed of the frass of the insect and often its exuviae, or bits of shed exoskeleton. The beetle may carry the shield on its back or wield it upon its posterior end. The main function of the fecal shield is defense against predators. Other terms for the fecal shield noted in the literature include “larval clothing”, “kotanhang” (“fecal appendage”), “faecal mask”, “faecal pad”, and “exuvio-faecal annex”.

The fecal shield is not just a physical barrier, but also a chemical one. When a larva feeds on a plant, it ingests secondary metabolites in the plant tissues, such as alkaloids, saponins, and phytol derivatives, and these are present in its feces. These chemicals can be a potent defense against predatory insects. For example, the larva of the tortoise beetle Plagiometriona clavataobtains chemical compounds from its diet of bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara), excretes them, and incorporates them into its shield, where they repel the predatory ant Formica subsericea.

The fecal shield is beneficial, but it is not without its cost to the insect. Though it is made of waste products, the larva must exert energy simply to transport its weight. A fecal shield can weigh half as much as the larva itself. This energy might otherwise go into development. The shield is also a problem for the larva when it has the opposite effect: its chemistry attracts predators instead of repelling them. Experiments with several larvae of genus Cassida that feed on volatile-rich tansy show that their shields attract the predatory ant Myrmica rubra. (wikipedia)


8. Electric Eel 

The electric eel, Electrophorus electricus, is a freshwater electrical fish. Of those fish able to generate an electrical discharge, electric eels are by far the most effective, producing up to 600 volts, which it uses for both hunting and self-defense.
Electric Eels  are found in the waters of South America, and are capable of generating a 500volt electric shock through 28ft of still water. The shock that the electric eel produces is enough to harm any large mammal, including humans.

The electricity that the electric eel uses to shock its prey, is produced in pairs of organs that are found in the abdomen of the electric eel. These electricity producing organs take up around of 80% of the body of the electric eel leaving only 20% of the electric eels body free to hold the electric eels vital organs that it needs to survive.
The electric eel also has unusual breeding behavior – a male makes a nest from his saliva into which the female lays her eggs. As many as 17,000 young will hatch from the eggs in one nest. (


9. Sea Cucumber

A ring of tentacles around sea cucumbers’ mouths sweeps the ocean bottom, picking up sand. The sea cucumber’s digestive system extracts bits of dead plants and animals from the grains and expels clean sand from its anus.

The sea cucumber has a busier anus than most animals — it also breathes through it. Inside the anus is a respiratory tree. Muscles around the branches circulate water to extract oxygen and release carbon dioxide. That’s why if you pick up a leathery sea cucumber, a stream of water often whooshes out of its anus.

The anus of some sea cucumber species provides shelter for several species of pearlfish, a narrow translucent fish that forages at night near its chosen host. Come dawn, the conspicuous pearlfish wiggles into its landlord’s anus and there rests, protected from daytime predators.

Not all sea cucumbers welcome pearlfish in their rectal chambers because the fish can get too cozy in there and start nibbling its host’s internal organs. Some sea cucumber species have a circle of five inward-pointing teeth around the anus, effective in keeping out potential parasitic squatters.


Because some fish eat the slow-moving sea cucumbers, they have evolved defenses you might expect to see only in sci-fi films. Some species shoot out sticky, toxic threads from their anuses to immobilize their enemies. Others produce a poison called holothurin that can kill fish and even people who eat them.

Another defense, called auto-evisceration, is what it sounds like. The creature ejects its internal organs, again through that all-purpose anus. This distracts the predator while the cucumber crawls into hiding. It takes a month or more for the organs to grow back. (


10. Fulmars Spray Puke Glue


Fulmar — a species of sea bird that nests on cliffs — has developed an innovative defense mechanism that keeps chicks safe and intruders from ever returning, has developed an innovative defense mechanism that keeps chicks safe and intruders from ever returning.

The term fulmar means “foul gull,” and it is aptly named. When confronted with anything — from predatory eagles to gulls passing by to unwary rock climbers — the fulmar chick will projectile vomit an oily secretion all over the face of the approaching animal .

This gull is puking foul smelling oil that will actually kill most sea birds.


11. Armored Ground Cricket


15. Skunk 

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. (


16. Opossum

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. (



17. Stick Insect  

As the name implies, the stick insect looks like a stick, but can sometimes even look like leaves with mossy outgrowths. But camouflage is not its only line of defense for these guys; some stick insects can also spray their attackers with a defensive secretion which not only smells bad but can also cause mouth and eye irritation.


18. Turkey Vultures

When the Turkey vulture sense predatory danger, it will regurgitate the entire contents of its stomach; (which is utterly disgusting… and let’s not even talk about the smell). This enables the vulture to run away faster as it’s a lot lighter but more than likely the predator would have been spooked off anyways.



19. Iberian Ribbed Newt

Found on the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, the Iberian Ribbed Newt has developed an alarming self-defense mechanism. When in danger, the newt will push its ribs through the skin which it uses as weapons. The exposed bones are then covered with a poisonous substance which has the potential to kill its predator.


20. Pygmy Sperm Whale 


Being one of the smallest species of toothed whales in the sperm whale family, the pygmy sperm whales have a developed a grotesque (but effective) defense mechanism. When threatened, the whale will secrete an anal syrup into the water. The whale then stirs up the water to create a giant cloud of poo in which it can take cover in.





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