Hey! What can I say? If it's disgusting... I'm gonna share it with you. I'm generous like that.
|hognose snake [wikimedia]|
But this snake is a really grrrrreat pretender with a boatload of bravado.
|[source: Dana Oliver, GA Department of Wildlife]|
When threatened, this harmless guy will puff up like a big bad cobra, which has earned him another name... puff adder. He'll even hiss like a cobra.
|[wikipedia- credit: Albert Herring, VA State Parks]|
But if all that bluff and bluster doesn't do the trick? No problem. He'll just roll over onto his back with his tongue hanging out, and... play dead. Even manages to emit a foul scent to help convince whatever or whoever is bothering him to go away... nothing here worth eating, buddy, just keep moving... because I'm dead, dead, DEAD, dammit.
But the thing is, after learning about this snake, I decided to research some of the self-defense techniques used by other animals. Turns out, some of their defensive methods are rather offensive and disgusting. So natch, I'm gonna share some of that stuff with you. (Aren't you lucky?)
The hognose snake, of course, isn't the only critter who plays dead in the face of danger. Probably the best-known is the opossum, which actually collapses and falls into a coma-like state that can last for hours. Unfortunately, far too many of them collapse right in the middle of the road. Not exactly the smartest move (Or should I say non-move?) in terms of their survival.
Nature already gives many creatures an appearance that blends in well with their natural environments, but many more also have the ability to change their camouflage to better match a changing environment. Like the chameleon and the walking stick insect, and the king of 'em all, the cuttlefish, which not only changes color, but also changes its texture.
Oh, and how about the skunk? Even if you've never actually encountered a Pepe La Pew in person, I'm sure you know all about how they send predators scurrying by lifting their tails and letting loose with a foul-smelling spray. I mean FOUL. Really really really foul. Foul enough to chase away a bear. And it's so bad, it can even cause temporary blindness.
But enough about stuff you probably already know. Let's turn now to some of the more bizarre... and disgusting... stuff you might NOT know...
|[wikipedia- credit: Patrick Coin]|
|[credit: Chris Stubbs, Edmonton Zoo]|
The bombardier beetle isn't the only critter that squirts poison out its butt. The Malaysian exploding ant has large glands filled with a corrosive venom, and all it has to do is contract its abdomen to burst the glands and spray predators. (No mixing needed. No boiling temperature either, but still. Kinda impressive.) Some bugs, like the potato beetle and the cereal leaf beetle, are somewhat lazier, but equally as off-putting. They cover themselves in feces. Other animals, rather than roll in poop, ooze poison through their skin. The motyxia sequoiae, a type of millipede, bioluminesces if threatened, while oozing cyanide and other foul-tasting chemicals through its skin. The sea cucumber, as shown in the picture, is capable of oozing a sticky poison, but it does something else even more astounding... and yes, disgusting.
And here it is. Know what the sea cucumber is doing in this shot? It is self-eviscerating. Really. In extreme circumstances, to reeeeeally convince a predator that it's dead, a sea cucumber will squeeze its muscles so tightly, it actually forces some of its organs out its anus. Talk about extreme.
Getting sick of hearing about the disgusting stuff animals shoot out their butts to defend themselves? Okay, let's look at the other end, then. There's always vomiting. (Sorry.) Yeah, some critters use that as a means of self-defense, too. Mostly birds. Like the European roller bird, the fulmar, and the turkey buzzard. The roller bird spews a nasty-smelling orange liquid, and the fulmar produces a putrid oil in its stomach, which it projectile vomits in the faces of predators. It's bad news for other birds, too, because it mats their feathers, which makes flying impossible. The turkey buzzard is a little less genteel, if one considers projectile vomiting genteel. He simply arfs up the entire disgusting contents of his stomach into one untidy putrid pile. Makes him lighter, so he can get away faster, and the pile of barf smells so bad, most predators quickly lose interest. (Wouldn't YOU?)
Okay, don't want to hear anything more about vomit, either, huh? Okay, well, I've got a super odd one for you. The Texas horned lizard puffs up a bit when threatened, which isn't all that unusual, but what he does next is astounding. He shoots blood... out of his eye! And believe it or not, the stream of blood can travel up to five feet! Wanta see...? (Of course you do!)
Pretty cool, huh? The best is yet to come, but I'll save it for next week.
|Rah! Rah! Siss Boo BAH! [wikimedia- credit: Hectonichus]|
Looky here. I'm ending on a ♪cute note ♫. Nothing at all disgusting about this cute little cheerleader look-alike, who's only about an inch in size. He's a boxer crab, and although it looks like he's holding pom poms in his claws, they're actually anemones. The crab helps the anemones by toting them around, and they help him by providing protection. They're the muscle. So to speak. Don't they make a lovely menage a trois?
Some of you might find it odd that one of the words I used to tag this post is appreciation. And that's because, no matter how disgusting we might find the behavior of some animals to be, it is fascinating to learn about them. The more we discover about them, the better we can appreciate them. Not that I'd recommend attempting to make friends with a bombardier beetle...
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
P.S. Here's news about something that should be of interest to both readers and writers alike. Author Jessica Therrien is featuring a Read and Review Challenge on her blog from now until the end of March, in which a long list of authors has agreed to provide a FREE book to any reader who is willing to write and post a review. Each month, anyone who writes and posts a review for one of these books will be entered into a drawing for a ten-dollar Amazon gift card, and anyone who writes five reviews over the entire challenge period becomes eligible for the grand prize drawing of a fifty-dollar gift card. What's not to love, right? Authors, here's a chance for your book to get more exposure and potential reviews, and readers, FREE BOOKS! Need I say more? Go ahead. Check it out. The list of books is growing all the time.