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Saturday, February 04, 2012

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Animal Weapons

1. Electric eel

Despite their name and serpentine appearance, electric eels are not true eels. They are more closely related to carp and catfish. They got the name from the enormous electrical charge they can generate to catch prey and dissuade predators. Their organs contain about 6,000 specialized cells called “electrocytes” that can effectively turn them into batteries. When threatened or attacking a big prey, the cells will discharge simultaneously, producing voltages of 600 volts (this is about five times the shock you would get from sticking the finger into a wall socket). When attacking a smaller fish, the eel delivers small shocks to its prey rendering the victim paralyzed.

2. Hagfish

The hagfish is a primitive bottom-dweller with no teeth, jaws, stomach or even true eyes, but it has well developed senses of smell and touch and an incredible defense mechanism. When threatened, this creature releases a sticky, ropy and slippery slime that acts as a protective coating. When the danger is gone, the hagfish cleans up by tying itself in a knot and pulling its body through – scraping it clean. This animals only grow to be about 40 centimeters long but can release more than a liter of slime in about one second. As soon as the hagfish is bitten by a predatory fish, the slime oozes out of it and the predator will soon have gills full of goo and choke to death.

3. Bombardier beetle

Unlike many other insects, beetles cannot as a rule take instantly to the air when under attack from a predator, so they require other tools to protect themselves against enemies. The bombardier beetle is armed with an impressive defense system. These incredible creatures can make their own hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide (two very dangerous chemicals), store them in their abdomens and, when in danger, mix the two chemicals to create an acid that heats up to 100 °C (212 °F) and then spray out right into the face of the would be aggressor, making a sound of a gunshot.

4. Horned Lizard

The horned lizard has one of the most bizarre weapons that it uses to protect itself aginst predators. But this lizard is equipped with so many defense tactics and it will use its secret weapon after all of its other tactics fail. When in danger, the lizard will first try to confuse the enemy’s visual acuity by running in short bursts and stopping abruptly. If this doesn’t work, the reptile will then puff up its body to cause it to look bigger and more difficult for the predator to swallow. If this tactic fails too, the horned lizard will use its last tactic – squirting blood out of its eyes. The lizard is able to do this by increasing the blood pressure in its head. When the pressure increases, the blood vessels in the corner of its eyes rupture and blood shoots out, sometimes for a distance of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet). The blood is not poisonous but it seems to confuse predators and allows the lizard to get away.

5. Archer Fish

In the quiet waters of the Orient, there is a strange fish known as the archer fish, famed for its ability to create an effective water pistol and shoot down insects and other small land based creatures flying or walking on the plants above the water. The archer fish usually spends its time just below the surface of the water, and when it notices a victim that is within range, it adjusts eyes like a scope, so the prey lines up horizontally. The fish will then barely break the water’s surface with its lips and squirt the strong jets of water at the insect until it fells down in the water. Despite the fact the archer fish average only 15 centimeters (6 inches) in length, they can spit out very strong jets of water that can reach up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) away. The fact that the fish almost always hit the target on the first shot is truly remarkable.

6. Skunk

Skunks have earned the title of the smelliest animals in the world, but according to the Humane Society of the United States these mammals don’t naturally smell bad and they use their scent glands only as a defensive weapon when threatened. To employ a scent bomb, a skunk will turn around and blast its enemies with a foul mist which can travel as far as 3 meters (10 feet). Skunk’s spray doesn’t cause real damage to its victims, but it is very effective as a defensive technique, since it can be so strong to even ward off bears. The spray can also cause irritation and temporary blindness and can be powerful enough to be detected by a human nose over a mile downwind. Skunks only have enough spray for five or six uses after what they require about ten days to produce another supply of the chemical.

7. Malaysian Ant

In Japanese language the word “ant” is written by linking two characters: one meaning “insect,” the other “loyalty.” The Malaysian ant is so loyal that it is ready to die in one of the most bizarre ways in order to protect the rest of its colony. Also called “exploding ants” and “kamikaze ants,” this little creatures really tend to explode when their colony is in danger. The ant has two poison-filled mandibular glands that run the entire length of its body and, when a predator appears, the little soldier will contract its muscles to build up the poison and then will explode, spraying the toxic glue on the predator.

8. Whip Scorpion

Whip scorpions might look even scarier than scorpions, but they aren’t nearly as dangerous as more common scorpion species. In fact, they are very small (only about 18 centimeters long), don’t have pinschers or venom and their tail don’t sting. But they do have an amazing defense mechanism. When threatened, the whip scorpion will squirt a vinegar-like fluid (a combination of acetic acid and octanoic acid) from defense glands that are situated at the base of the tail. Although not poisonous, this acid is fifteen times stronger than household vinegar and is irritating enough to make most predators back off.

 9. Spitting Spider

Despite its body size of only 3-6 mm, the spitting spider is a serious threat to its prey since, unlike other arachnids, it has the ability to spit a glue-like substance at the victim. Besides the silk glands in its abdomen, this creature also has silk glands that are connected with its poison glands. When ready to catch the prey, the spider will sneak carefully towards the victim and, from about 10 mm, it will measure the distance to its prey without disturbing it. When everything’s done, the spider will spit two poisonous silk threads over the victim at lightening fast speeds of 1/600th of a second. After the victim is immobilized, the spider is ready to have a snack. An interesting fact about spitting spiders is that they can be unsocial and sometimes they will use their weapon to spit the substance at each other till the other is immobilised.

10. Humpback Whale

The highly intelligent humpback whales have developed a sophisticated hunting skill, known as bubble net feeding, which involves a group of the whales working together to capture schools of prey. The whales begin their hunt circling a highly concentrated group of fish and then the giants start blowing bubbles, creating the net of bubbles that is incredibly strong and capable of catching fish just like a real net. When the fish are trapped, the whales then swim upward through the net, with their mouths wide open, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp.

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