Friday, October 23, 2015

More Offensive Defenses

Thought for the day:  We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it. [Abraham Lincoln}

For sure, it's an admirable thing for humans to be big and noble, but in the animal kingdom, self-defense very often depends on being... offensive. Like the proverb goes, The best defense is a good offense. Predators are much more interested in killing and consuming other animals than they are in inviting them to share a meal at a nice restaurant, so animals had to come up with some rather interesting ways to defend themselves. In the last post, we looked at the vile toxins some animals spray out their posteriors, (MUCH worse than we humans do after eating too many burritos.) and at the putrid projectile vomit favored by others. We also covered poisons that ooze through the skin, and at a lizard who shoots predators by squirting blood out of his eye. And my personal favorite, the boxer crab, a tiny fella who carries anemones around in his claws to protect himself. Today, we're going to examine a handful of other animals, whose means of self-defense are even more bizarre. And somewhat glorious.

[wikipedia- credit: U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration]
Like this pink-winged flying fish. Isn't he glorious? To evade predators, he swims at speeds of up to 37 MPH, which allows him to break through the surface of the water. Then he uses his large pectoral fins like wings, and can remain airborne for up to 656 feet. What a sight that must be to see!

But he isn't offensive. In a fight vs. flight dilemma, this fish literally chooses flight. Let's go from this fish, which is kind of beautiful, to something considerably less so. Time to up the disgusting factor.



This creature is called a hagfish. It's actually considered a living fossil, because it pretty much looks today as it did 300 million years ago. (How do they know...?) Anyhow, it's the only known animal to contain a skull without a vertebral column.

How does it protect itself? Well, have you ever caught an eel when you were fishing? Ever been slimed by an eel? Well, as gross as that is, it is NOTHING compared to the sliming capabilities of a hagfish. You've gotta see it to believe it...


I KNOW! Isn't that wild? (I wonder if scientists have discovered any useful applications for that stuff yet?)

[wikimedia- credit: David Perry]

Check out this guy. He's an Iberian ribbed newt, indigenous to the Iberian peninsula (ergo his name) and Morocco. See those little bumps down his side? They're ribs. When he's being threatened, he actually pushes his ribs right through the skin so he can use them as weapons. As if having his own built-in weapons weren't enough, the exposed bones are also covered with poison.


[wikimedia- credit: Gustavocavia]


Here's another critter who uses his own bones as weapons. This hairy frog from Central Africa cracks his toe bones and pushes them through the skin to form sharp claws for fighting off attackers.











[wikipedia- credit: Piekfrosch]

We're all familiar with porcupines, and what an impressive shield of defense their quills provide, but they aren't the only critters with built-in suits of armor. Meet the pangolin, who makes his home throughout parts of Africa and Asia. His whole body is covered with large scales, making him look kinda like a big ol' pine cone. It's fairly tough, too, which is why some ancient warriors actually used them to make their own suits of armor. You can't really tell in the picture, but the pangolin has very large powerful claws, which they mostly use to get at insects, but rarely as weapons. As a last resort, they can use their tail as a weapon, or they can spray out a smelly goo from their anus. But their first means of self-defense...?







[wikipedia- credit: Sandup Kumer]


They roll up into a tight little ball. Think the lions are fooled?

They can roll, too. I read that one was seen rolling down a hill at a high rate of speed in Sumatra, which must have been a hoot, but I couldn't find any video of it. Too bad.






[wikimedia- credit: Chris Stubbs]
Armadillos can also roll up into a ball. Maybe I'm weird, but I really LIKE armadillos. I know a lot of people consider them to be a nuisance, little more than a rat on a half-shell, but I think they're amazing- looking creatures. Like the armored tanks of the animal kingdom. 'Course, I don't actually have any around here digging up our yard, so I have the luxury of admiring them from afar.






[wikipedia- credit: French Avatar]

Believe it or not, this is a 3-banded armadillo. Looks like a melon, doesn't it?

Or maybe it looks like a ... ball?











Check this video out for a laugh. 



These two posts barely scratch the surface of the amazing ways animals defend themselves, but I'd much rather pique your interest than bore you to tears. I hope, no matter how disgusting you found some of this to be, you've also gained a bit more of an appreciation for the resiliency and self-defense mechanisms found within the animal kingdom.

Humor is a great defense, and an offense, too. Usually the recipient isn't too happy about it, but the people around are laughing.  [Robin Williams]

Do you think animals have a sense of humor? I'd read some accounts indicating that they do, and that some of them laugh and like to be tickled. But whether or not they have a sense of humor, I have a feeling this video will make YOU laugh. Some animals enjoy fermented beverages, too, and they also have to pay the piper, so to speak...


                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


68 comments:

  1. Love, love, love the hagfish. I have a new ambition now...

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  2. I've never seen a hairy frog or a fish that can walk (or run) on water - - - although I've known a few people who THOUGHT they could walk on water (wry humor....). That hagfish freaks me out. It's appropriately named.

    Once again, Susan, you've proven that fact is stranger than fiction.

    By the way, I like armadillos, too. The three-banded ones look a lot different than the ones I've seen in Texas.

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    1. Very cool that you like armadillos, too. Most people I know think I'm nuts for liking them. (Must be a Sagittarian thing...)

      Speaking of which, I just saw in last night's paper that Dick Van Dyke shares our birthday. He's gonna be ninety. (Feel young, now?)

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  3. I always thought that nature was a beautiful thing. Having read this however, I'm not so sure...

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    1. Beauty's in the eyes of the beholder, right? Although it'd be pretty tough for anyone to find much beauty in a hagfish's mug.

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  4. I love the diversity of it all - creatures that we find amusing or ugly no doubt look beautiful to other creatures. Maybe we can all learn something from that?

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    1. I do, too. I wonder if other creatures even consider "beauty" the way humans do. They may have a much more enlightened way of choosing a mate.

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  5. Wow, ouch to the toe bone cracking. Blah to that nasty stuff from the hagfish, I think I'll avoid them forever.

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    1. Yeah, that toe bone cracking made me cringe, too. (I cam't even stand it when someone cracks his knuckles...)

      That hagfish brings slime to a whole new level.

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  6. The drunk animals were pretty funny though I did feel a little sorry for those monkeys when they woke up they next day.

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    1. Me, too. I could practically feel their pain.

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  7. So interesting! I've heard of a hagfish and its slime. But I think it's a good mechanism. I mean, who'd want to touch that, let alone put it in your mouth. ;-)

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    1. I've gotta agree. It's a GREAT mechanism. I sure wouldn't want to touch it... let alone (ugh) eat it.

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  8. In my next life, I might want to be an armadillo. There have been times when I have wanted to crawl up into a ball to protect me from the hurt that the world can inflict. On the other hand, I'd rather not look like a rat but rather a soft bunny that everybody loves.

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    1. I know what ya mean. I've been known to retreat into myself to escape pain before, too, and it'd be mighty handy to have a thicker armor-plated skin like those little guys.

      HA! Yeah, bunnies definitely trump rats.

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  9. Oh, good lord! I have to open this at home to watch those videos,. Slimed by a Hagfish - ! Me, I want to be the chick with the bandolero!

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    1. HA! Yeah, you've gotta see that slime to believe it. Don't want to miss the drunken and hungover critters in the last video, either. (Poor things.)

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  10. Oh, my gosh! The drunk animals! I am laughing so hard. Especially at the hungover baboon holding his head. Which probably isn't very charitable of me, but what the hey. *grin*

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    1. Hey! What's charity gotta do with it? You didn't make that baboon eat the fermented fruit. (But it IS funny, isn't it?)

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  11. What gross and ugly animals. Now I understand the inspiration for all the aliens in Star Wars and elsewhere. Funny watching those drunk animals, except that's what I look like on the open ocean. Pitiful, just pitiful to get motion sickness! LOL

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    1. Good point! There's plenty of alien-looking critters right here on earth. No need for filmmakers to tax their imaginations too much.

      Oh you poor thing. I've never been seasick before, but if I were, I'm sure I wouldn't stray far from the bed. My grandmother was deathly seasick the entire trip over from Scotland in 1923. If that weren't bad enough, when they got here, she hardly had any clothes, because my grandfather had torn up most of her dresses to diaper my father... then overboard with them when they were soiled. (I guess he wasn't too pleased with getting stuck with babysitting duty...)

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  12. nature is darn freaky, that's for sure. Armadillos are destructive creatures as they burrow under stuff. I'm keeping my eye out for flying fish - it's finally raining like crazy here.

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    1. I figured you've probably had a much closer relationship with armadillos than you'd like. Kinda goes with living in Texas, doesn't it? (And I KNOW how much you like critters...)

      Yay for the rain! Good luck spotting some of those fish...

      Have a super weekend.!

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  13. Haha... the poor elephant getting drunk off fermented mangos... I bet he doesn't feel great the next morning... and whoa to the slime, that is extra disgusting. It is truly amazing what animals are able to do to protect themselves as much as possible... xox

    Have a really great week Susan <3

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    1. I don't think any of those animals felt all that terrific the next morning. When an amateur radio friend of our from South Africa came to visit, he brought us a bottle of amarulla, which is made from the fruit those animals were eating. Potent stuff!

      You have a super week, too.

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    2. You just reminded me...I have some of the Amarula in the pantry! Yes, good stuff!

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    3. Yes, it really is. Especially if you keep it chilled,. Yum.

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  14. Armadillos are cool. I've never seen a frog like that. It looks kind of freaky.

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    1. Woo HOO! Yet another person who appreciates how cool armadillos are.

      I'll betcha Bubba would like that frog...

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  15. Hey Susan,

    I got your comment and wanted to mail you, but for the life of me, I can't find your e-mail address. :-D

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    1. It's in the sidebar under the "Who I Yam" blurb. It says, "Email Me. Click here." :)

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  16. Fascinating tour through the animal kingdom. Loved this post.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Greetings right back atcha.

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  17. I have aways loved porcupins and armadillos.
    Daugher intruduced me to the pangolin.
    I adore them all !

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Super! I don't know why, but it tickles me that you're fans of those critters. :)

      Cheers back atcha.

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  18. Most interesting and instructive. Had never even heard of some of these wonderful creatures. Most impressed with hairy frog --Who keeps him trimmed? I try not to imagine him with a whole-body comb-over but can't help it.

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    1. Now that you mention it, that hairy frog does bear a striking resemblance to a certain (ahem) "gentleman" with an infamous comb-over...

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  19. LOL at the drunk animals.

    The hagfish video has me thinking...I'm having ideas for use of this slime as industrial-strength glue!

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    1. That clip of the drunken animals is from an old movie called, "Animals are People, Too." If you can find a copy, it's well worth watching.

      Industrial-strength SOMETHING. That disgusting stuff could literally "gum up the works."

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  20. Thrusting your own bones through your skin to stab your attacker? Pretty extreme!

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    1. Sure is! And no doctor on-call to set the bones afterward, either. OUCH!

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  21. Love the video. :) I believe animals have a sense of humor, and they enjoy laughing at us. Pretty sure I've seen my cat pointing at me, her shoulders shaking.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. I haven't caught our cats laughing out loud at us, but I do believe they've smirked a time or two... :)

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  22. Nature is so, so fascinating. And gross. And it's hilarious to think that after so many years of gross defenses like this, there are still people that think "I should probably pick that up and pet it like a dog."

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    1. Fascinating and gross... two of my favorite things. Doesn't mean I wanta cuddle with 'em, though. :)

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  23. Love the hagfish! A new favorite animal LOL.
    It's so amazing how nature provides for itself. I can see myself just collapsing and rolling into a ball if I'm terrified but I don't think it would work as well for me as it does for the porcupines and armadillos.

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    1. Glad ya look kindly on the hagfish. I have a feeling the poor thing isn't very popular.

      Yeah, I could see myself rolling up into a ball to protect myself, too, but I think we'd have to develop a thicker skin first. :)

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  24. Another great post, Susan. Thank you for the interesting information and the laughs too. I hope you have a nice week.

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    1. Thanks, Daisy. I'm glad you liked it.

      Here's wishing you a super week, too.

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  25. Ewww, slime. That's cool about the flying fish. I didn't know about any of these animals' defenses except for the armadillo.

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    1. Yeah, slime to the MAX! It's one of those things I'm glad to have seen on a video, but don't have any great desire to see in person. :)

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  26. I love the video of the animals getting drunk, I watch it most times it pops up somewhere.
    I like the winged flying fish, I didn't know about those.

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    1. I love that video of the inebriated animals, too. Have you seen the movie "Animals Are People, Too"? That's what the clip is from. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. (If you can find it... our copy is on VHS...)

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  27. That slime is NASTY. Love the flying fish. She's pretty. We see armadillo road kill around here all the time, unfortunately.

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    1. No, no, no, that isn't road kill. We see them all the time when we travel to Florida to visit our son and his family, and like I tell my husband, they're all simply taking a nap.

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  28. These all are indeed second line of defense for all these critters.

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    1. Second line? Yeah, I guess you're right. If other critters don't want to listen to the first line, when they're asked nicely to go away, these critters have to resort to a second, more rigorous, line of persuasion.

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  29. Wow, animals are a lot freakier than I've ever realized!

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    1. Nah, they're not freaky, just super cool. :) Like super heroes. Weird super heroes...

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  30. The flying fish was really extraordinary to look at! I wouldn't want to do anything to get on the hagfish's bad side. Very fascinating creatures, Susan!

    Julie

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    1. Yeah, given my druthers, I'd rather be a flying fish than a hagfish... :)

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  31. And here I thought offence was what you put up to separate your property from your neighbour's.

    What cute little animals you found to show/tell us. I heard of a guy who shot an Armadillo recently. Bullet bounced off the Armadillo and hit the shooter in the face. Some critters are really tough. Other are truly yucky.

    Blessings and Bear hugs, Susan.

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    1. Nah, you only use an "offense" to separate your property from your neighbor's if you don't like him...

      Yep, some critters are tough, and other are yucky, but bears are better. 'Cept for their fish-breath, maybe...

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