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