Some animals will do anything to survive, and we mean anything. From eating snake puke to vomiting sticky orange slime, some of these defenses are weird, creepy, and downright disgusting.
Meet an Oscar-worthy actor, a one-centimeter sea creature who employs a defense tactic after they've been eaten, and a bug who collects the dead carcasses of its prey as we explore the contenders for the creepiest animal defenses in the world.
The Virginia opossum is a unique marsupial species native to North America. It may look cute, but this animal will eat anything from baby birds to insects, snakes, and rotting roadkill. Despite its somewhat intimidating diet, the Virginia opossum weighs only 1.9 - 2.8 kg and has minimal defense strategies against larger predators such as coyotes, foxes, and hawks.
What do you do when all else fails? Play dead, and hope for the best. These Oscar-worthy marsupials are some of the best in the business and can play dead for up to six hours. During this time, they stay entirely still and slow their breathing and heart rate. They can also release a green spray from their body to mimic the smell of a rotting corpse, which is off-putting enough to allow them to escape from many predators.
Malaysian Carpenter Ants
Malaysian carpenter ants are a notable species that have evolved to protect their families in unique and interesting ways. When threatened, a Malaysian carpenter ant will squeeze her abdomen muscles, causing a pressure build-up until she explodes and secretes a poisonous blast that can glue enemies in place. This incredible adaptation means that this brave defender dies, but she sacrifices herself, knowing she has protected her colony from predators and other threats.
Siberian chipmunks are small rodents native to Siberia and Russia's Far East. These cute creatures are only 10-15 cm long, and with several predators, such as snakes, foxes, weasels, hawks, and owls, roaming their forested habitats, they have had to adapt some ingenious methods of defense.
One of the ways that a Siberian chipmunk defends itself is by slicing open the bladder of a dead snake with its sharp teeth, then rolling around in the snake's urine. This unusual tactic is considered an effective deterrent against potential predators due to the strong smell of ammonia in the urine, which can be unpleasant for other animals.
And this isn't the only trick up the sleeves of these crafty chipmunks. If they can't find a dead snake, they chew on shed skin or even nibble droppings to cover their scent with these far more fearsome predators.
Hagfish are fascinating creatures that use a unique defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators. They have two hundred slime pores on their body which they use to release a thick, sticky slime when they feel threatened. This slime covers the predator in an uncomfortable and slimy coating, making it hard for them to breathe. By releasing this slime, hagfish can easily escape their predators' clutches and ensure they stay safe in the deep sea.
And that's not the only disgusting behavior these slippery fish engage in. When hungry, hagfish seek out dying fish and crawl inside their bodies to eat them from the inside out! Despite weak vision, these creatures are sometimes fortunate enough to stumble upon an abundant feast, such as a whale carcass. When this happens, they release a slime cloud in the surrounding water to deter other animals from joining them.
The Northern Fulmar is a resilient bird that lives in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans subarctic regions. Scattered along coastlines, these birds must go off in search of food each day, which means their babies are left behind to fend for themselves.
Luckily, these fluffy little chicks have a far more impressive defense mechanism than many other youngsters. They can attack oncoming predators with vomit! If they see an enemy heading towards them, these nifty little chicks can open their beaks and spew out a bright orange vomit that smells like fish. Not only is this unpleasant for the attacker, but the stickiness of the substance can glue their wing feathers together, making it difficult for them to fly.
Impressively, these chicks can hit a moving target from a distance of 1.5 meters and can launch a dozen attacks in quick succession.
Deep Sea Ostracod
Deep sea ostracods are fascinating creatures that lurk in the ocean's depths and measure just 1 cm in length. They have a sac-like body and a transparent outer shell, allowing them to camouflage in the ocean's depths. To help them navigate their environment, they have two large eyes and a strong heart.
Despite their transparent camouflage, these creatures face several threats; cardinal fish are among the most prominent.
As you'd imagine, these tiny creatures don't stand a chance against larger fish, and the cardinals can easily swallow them. Still, it's only after the Deep Sea Ostracod has been devoured that it can launch its impressive defense technique. Once ingested by the fish, an ostracod releases a slimy mucus that glows in the dark. Not only does this startle the predator, but it draws unwanted attention. So, the fish throws up the little Ostracod, who continues to produce this glowing slime until its predator is long gone.
Assassin bugs are predatory insects who love to feast on ants. These bugs use their sharp mouth to attack the ants, and then they use their saliva to paralyze them - once the ant is immobilized, the assassin bug sucks out its insides. This behavior makes them one of nature's most efficient predators.
In addition, they have developed an interesting way to protect themselves from predators. Once they have consumed the insides of an ant, they use the empty corpses to create a unique form of camouflage. By adding ant carcasses to their backs, they can change their appearance. As a result, they can carry the ants around with them and use them as a form of protection. This helps the assassin bug stay safe while avoiding being detected by predators.