11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature

The natural world is a deadly dance of predator and prey where the stakes are high. These 11 defense mechanisms attempt to balance the odds.

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
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Nature, to some, appears to be a tranquil and peaceful place - but there is also another side to nature. The natural world is a brutal dance of life and death where many prey animals and plants have been forced to develop interesting and surprising defense mechanisms to defend themselves from their predators and, in some cases, the elements.

These 11 are perfect examples and range from the absurd to the, frankly, disgusting. The following are far from exhaustive and are in no particular order.

1. The Wood Frog Creates Its Own Antifreeze to Survive Being Frozen

Species: The Wood Frog

Their greatest defense mechanism: Uses natural anti-freeze to survive being frozen alive

Notes: During the height of winter, these frogs are able to survive the harsh climate by allowing their bodies to become completely frozen. Even their hearts and brains are put into a form of stasis with no activity. 

They perform this incredible feat by pumping their body tissues with large amounts of glucose that acts as a form of natural anti-freeze to limit the size of crystals that can form.

2. The Sea Cucumber Fires Its Internal Organs At Attackers

Species: The Sea Cucumber

Their greatest defense mechanism: It ejects its own intestines and other organs at the enemy to entangle and deter them.

Notes: The Sea Cucumber has an interesting, if not disgusting defense mechanism. When threatened it can eject its own sticky intestines, and other organs, out of its anus. This entangles the would-be predator and they can also contain a poison called holothurin. 

This is not fatal and takes around 6 weeks to fully regenerate its lost organs.

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons

3. The Boxer Crab Uses Sea Anenomes as Boxing Gloves

Species: Boker Crab

Their greatest defense mechanism: It uses sea anemones, sponges or corals as boxing gloves to ward off predators

Notes: By entering into a mutually beneficial relationship, Boxer Crabs allow anemones, sponges or corals to get a free ride on their claws. In return, the crab gets to use them as poisonous boxing gloves. 

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Prilfish/Wikimedia Commons

4. The Cuttlefish Changes Its Color and Shape to Hide in Plain Sight

Species: The Cuttlefish

Their greatest defense mechanism: It uses its amazing ability to camouflage its skin to blend into its surroundings.

Notes: The Cuttlefish is one of nature's great copycats and camouflage experts. They are able to rapidly change their skin color and change their body shapes to blend into its surroundings or, indeed, distract would-be predators.


5. Suicide Bomber Ants Defends the Colony at the Cost of Its Own Life

Species: Malaysian (Exploding) Ant

Their greatest defense mechanism: Although the name is a bit of a giveaway, these ants self-destruct to defend the colony when attacked. 

Notes: Soldier Malaysian Ants have two large poison glands that the ant employs to incapacitate invaders and defend the colony. It does this by violently contracting its muscles that cause the fluid-filled glands to burst and spray the enemy with the sticky poisonous substance. 

This also ends the soldier ants life but can seriously hamper or even kill the attacker(s).

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Noel Tawatao/Wikimedia Commons

6. The Slow Loris Can Coat Itself in Poison

Species: The Slow Loris

Their greatest defense mechanism: It rubs itself, and its teeth, in a poisonous substance secreted from glands on their arms. For some predators, this poison can cause anaphylactic shock


Notes: Normally a very slow moving creature, it is rather vulnerable to predators. To counteract this, they have poisonous glands on its arms that it rubs on its fur or lick to make the teeth poisonous in order to defend itself.

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Silke Hahn/Wikimedia Commons

7. The Porcupine Carries Its Own Phalanx

Species: The Porcupine

Their greatest defense mechanism: It uses its quills to counter-attack potential predators.

Notes: The Porcupine uses a timeless strategy in nature - attack is the best form of defense. It uses its very long quills to charge backward or sideways at attackers. They can also stand their ground in defense situations.

It can also, if pursued, suddenly stop and let the predator run headlong into them. This is not only painful but potentially fatal.

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Hohum/Wikimedia Commons

8. The Bombardier Beetle Is a Natural WMD

Species: The Bombardier Beetle

Their greatest defense mechanism: It squirts a noxious concoction of chemicals that, when mixed, form an explosive reaction of hot fluid.

Notes: The Bombardier Beetle is able to spray its enemies with a hot, noxious spray of body fluids from its anus. This is a mixture of hydroquinones, hydrogen peroxide, and a mix of enzymes.

9. The Texas Horned Lizard Literally Cries Blood

Species: Texas Horned Lizard

Their greatest defense mechanism: It squirts blood, under pressure, from its eyes.

Notes: When threatened, the Texas Horned Lizard is able to squirt its own pressurized blood at any potential attacker. This is, however, the last resort if its camouflage and physical spiked defenses fail it.

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith/Wikimedia Commons

10. The Iberian Newt Shape-Shifts To Defend Itself

Species: Iberian Ribbed Newt

Their greatest defense mechanism: Using their own ribs to form poisonous spikes

Notes: When attacked, this newt is able to push it ribs outside of its skin to form spikes that help to defend itself. It does this by moving them away from the spine and increasing their angle by 15 degrees. 

Its skin then stretches and the ribs penetrate through 'wart's along its sides and, simultaneously, a poisonous substance is secreted onto them through pores in the skin. The best part is that this appears to be a painless and survivable strategy. 

11 of the Greatest Defense Mechanisms in Nature
Source: David Perez/Wikimedia Commons

11. The Hagfish Knocks Out Predator Fish's Gills in Defense

Species: The Hagfish

Their greatest defense mechanism: It is able to expel a slimy substance that can clog up the gills of attackers


Notes: Hagfish are one of the oldest living fossils on the planet. They have existed for at least 300 million years and have an interesting, but disgusting, slimy substance when attacked.

This substance, once it mixes with water, expands and can clog up, and choke enemy fish's gills.