Top 4 Most Unique Animal Defense Mechanisms

A countdown of four animals that have unique and uncommon defense adaptations.

Jun 10, 2023byAlex Guse
most unique animal defense mechanisms

If you aren’t at the top of the food chain in the animal kingdom, it means someone, or something is looking to eat you. The animals on this list know this reality and have embraced it in quite an odd fashion. Every beast on this list has developed a unique way of dealing with their predatory foes.

4. Horned Lizard

horned lizard

The Horned Lizard may be number four on our list, but it is number one when talking about gruesome defensive strategies.

The Horned Lizard is a local of the American southwest, and Latin America found so far south as Guatemala. The southern local has several defense tactics, but the lizard’s last line of defense is incredibly unique. Like most smaller animals, its first line of defense is camouflage. Its color combos match the rocky terrain of the southwest. If it is spotted, it will flee. If captured, the lizard will enlarge itself, trying to choke its predator or become too big to swallow. If, after using all these techniques, the Horned Lizard still feels in danger, it resorts to its last line of defense.

The Lizard will shoot blood out of its eyes. Yes, you read that correctly. The lizard will use its own blood as a projectile deterrent. How the lizard performs this is a stunning act of muscle control. The cold-blooded reptile will tighten the muscles around its eye sockets, which causes blood to be unable to return to the heart, building pressure. When enough pressure is present, the lizard will contract the muscle even tighter, bursting the built-up tension and releasing the blood through tear ducts.

If you are still questioning why the Horned Lizard has made our list, I will leave you with this: they have been known to shoot blood out of their eyes up to four feet away.

3. Pangolin

pangolin 1

The Pangolin is a complex animal with a simple way of dealing with its predators; curl up into a ball and hope they go away. But there is much more to it than that. This animal is the only mammal that has scales. These scales are no joke. They have been conditioned to be razor-sharp and extremely hard. They weigh up to 70 pounds and can be up to 4.5 feet long. It becomes tough to pick up a 70 ball of razor blades for any predator.

It gets worse. If the animal feels threatened after getting into its defensive stance, it will release toxic fumes. Many attribute the smell and the style to which the toxin is applied to a skunk. These seemingly lovable creatures will curl up (razor scales pointed outwards), release their internal gasses, and wish their predators good luck.

If turning into a 70-pound stinky soccer ball covered in razor blades isn’t a unique defense mechanism, I don’t know what is.

2. Boxer Crab

boxer crab

The Boxer Crab is number two on the list of most unique defense mechanisms, not for its own bodily adaptations but for its ability to create a symbiotic relationship with another sea-dwelling creature. Together they make sure they both do not become something’s next meal.

This Crustacean resides in the coral reefs that make up the shallow waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Much like the Horned Lizard, its first line of defense is camouflage, blending in with the coral with bright oranges and reds.

We didn’t come here to talk about hiding, though. What sets this crab’s defense apart is its relationship with the sea anemones that it attaches to its hands to ward off predators. You read that right. The Boxer Crab lives up to its namesake by attaching poisonous sea anemones to its claws, where the anemones will latch on and live.

These crabs will use poisonous boxing gloves to punch away would-be predators. In return, the crab ensures the anemones are protected and well-fed.

1. Slow Loris

slow loris

Coming in at number one is an unsuspecting primate known as the Slow Loris. Its inner adaptations, as well as its ability to understand its habitat, is what lands them at number one on our list.

The Slow Loris and the cobra have co-existed in India, Sri Lanka, and the surrounding areas of southern Asia. This co-existence has led to the Slow Loris using the defensive style of the cobra and mimicking it.

If in danger, they will put their hands over their heads, linking at the wrist, trying to capture the essence of a spread-out cobra hood. It has even developed extra vertebrae that help it move in a slithery fashion. The Loris has even learned to hiss!

The Slow Loris is the only venomous mammal we know of. It secretes venom through its mouth and armpits. This is where the cobra hood mimicry plays another role. Because it has its hands over its head and armpits exposed, the Slow Loris will suck the venom out of its armpits and spit it at its predators. Deadly toxins from the armpit, to the mouth, to the face of its enemies.

Poison armpit sweat right to the eye of anything with bad intentions towards the Slow Loris, coupled with its ability to act like a venomous serpent, is why this character is number one on our list of unique defense mechanisms in the animal kingdom.

Alex Guse
byAlex Guse

Alex is the proud owner of Chester the puggle (beagle pug mix); his first dog was Zion, an Australian shepherd, which translated into a love for animals at an early age. He has since owned many pets, from dogs to reptiles and everything in between. His true passion for animals comes from being an outdoorsman. He finds that nature is where knowledge and respect for wildlife are paramount!