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Gianna Gruen | Marvel with us

5 really clever defense strategies of animals

Without the massive budgets that humans lavish on their territorial defense, animals have to turn to creativity to protect themselves from enemies – or attack them.

Researchers recently discovered, why the tawny crazy ant was so successful in invading the fire ants territory (which the latter may have stolen from the former, previously): when a fight with a fire ant is looming, tawny crazy ants secrete an acid they cover their body with (they rub their body with their legs to spread the chemical). This chemical protects them from the toxic attack of fire ants.

Tawny crazy ant standing on cricket le g, expressing detoxification behavior. (Photograph by Lawrence Gilbert)

Tawny crazy ant standing on cricket leg, expressing detoxification behavior. (Photograph by Lawrence Gilbert)


To defend their colony, termites were found to sacrifice themselves for their colleagues’ sake. Being threatened, they grow a sack with toxic liquids on their back, which then explodes spreading the toxins all over nearby enemies – as well over the termite itself.

Most people don’t like anything that is about inner body parts. For the sea cucumber‘s enemies, this might certainly be an issue: If feeling threatened, sea cucumbers expel their internal organs rapidly – which are sticky and partly toxic. The creatures may not be missing their body parts for long: they can regenerate the organs.

sea cucmber

Photo credit: CC BY NC ND 2.0: Jamie Henderson

When the bones in your legs break you’d immediately get to a doctor to get them to put a cast on. You’d never think of breaking your arms or legs on purpose. But for the Hairy frog breaking its toes is an effective way of defending itself. Facing an attacker it breaks its own toes, pushes the splinters through the skin, which then act as tiny sharp claws.

Photo credit: CC BY NC ND 2.0: Todd Barrow

Photo credit: CC BY NC ND 2.0: Todd Barrow

If you don’t possess any of the above skills, there’s only one thing left, that might help: pretending you’re dead. That’s what Fainting Goats do. When frightened, their muscles seize up for about 15 seconds – and they just fall over.


February 15, 2014



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