Say It, Don’t Spray It

Hi y’all,

I will keep the post kind of short and sweet this week as I just got back from a conference. I wanted to highlight some animals with amazing projectile skills. All of the animals that I focus on below have some incredible self-defense mechanisms and can shower their attackers with their own brand of pepper spray (and justice).

Eurasian Rollers and Northern Fulmars: Defensive vomiting (Birds Throw Up Unusual Vomit Defense). This article mentions a couple types of birds that utilize unusual defensive strategies, but Eurasian rollers and Northern fulmars use the precise purging of their bile and stomach contents as a means of protection. Young Eurasian rollers can use the vomit to alert their parents of nearby danger, but, shockingly, the foul smell also dissuades predators. Northern fulmars, commonly seen sea birds, are also experts in resourcefulness. Young Northern fulmar chicks defend themselves by projecting bile/oil on their attacker, thereby ruining the attacker’s waterproof coating and making them unable to fly or float. Fun video!

Defensive_Regurgitation

Siman Wagen-AnimalsandEarth: Photos for conservation, science education & you, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29716243

Bombardier Beetles: Boiling spray explosion! (How some beetles produce scalding defensive spray). I really liked this article by MIT because it got a little more into the mechanics of this defense strategy than most of the other articles that I found. These beetles are able to initiate a chemical reaction within their bodies that allows them to project a scalding stream of benzoquinone. The two chemicals that mix to produce this reaction are stored separately within the insect’s body. However, as soon as the beetle requires some protection, the materials combine, giving off excessive heat and leading to the rapid pressure build up and resulting spray. The sprays may come in bursts due to the beetle’s need to temporarily cool its abdomen. Deep Look also did a great video short on the beetles.

Horned Lizards: Blood-squirting eyes. (If it has to, a horned lizard can shoot blood from its eyes). In addition to the lizard’s uncanny camouflage and stillness techniques to avoid predation, it also has the capacity to squirt blood out of a pouch below its eye. Horned lizards appear to mainly reserve this strategy for cats and canids (e.g. dogs, coyotes). Surprisingly, the pressure in the blood pouch can become so high that the stream can extend up to 6ft! The blood is most effective if it hits the attacker in the mouth because a chemical in the blood targets specific receptors in a canid’s mouth. Humans, evidently, lack these special receptors. I bet cats and dogs wish they lacked them as well considering it takes them up to 15 minutes to recover from a horned lizard encounter. Nat Geo Video!

800px-Short-horned_lizard_-_Charles_M_Russell_National_Wildlife_Refuge_-_Montana_-_2011-04-12.jpg

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and is having a great week so far. Remember, when threatened, take a hint from these unusual creatures and use what you got! Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner awkward! I leave you with a clip that I love by Planet Earth of “Iguana Chased by Snakes.” It is absolutely mindblowing footage and, hopefully, it encourages you to keep moving forward against all odds and/or through whatever challenging situation you find yourself in.

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