Oh nature, you clever, clever thing. Always giving animals wonderfully weird and absolutely revolting techniques to stay off the dinner table. Here we showcase six of the strangest and grossest defense strategies employed by a variety of creatures. Oh, you might want to read this after dinner. Just to be safe 😉


Habitat: mesopelagic to abyssal Pacific ocean, near the ocean floor.
Status: Data Deficient

Starting off our list of weird animals with absolutely disgusting defense strategies is the particularly handsome Hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii). These jawless, spineless denizens of the deep are a throwback to the Paleozoic Era when fish evolved. Using feelers located on the ends of its face, the hagfish locates dead and rotting animals that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor. Swarms of hagfish will penetrate the decomposing carcass and feast on the body from the inside out. It uses its razor sharp teeth to bite and tear rotting flesh right off the bones. It’s a good thing the poor animal is dead when all of this is happening because good god that sounds painful.

Ferocious fangs aren’t the purpose this weird fish is included in our list, however. Hagfish have an entirely revolting trick up their sleeves to avoid predators. When disturbed, the hagfish will ooze proteins from slime glands in its skin that interact with the surrounding water to form a thick, slimy outer coating which ultimately expands into a HUGE mass of slime. In fact, deep-sea diving equipment has been thwarted from reaching its final destination in the past by large amounts of hagfish slime, produced when the fish are alarmed.

pacific hagfish slime, animal defense

photo via: gogonews.com

Now, you’d think that people would want to have as little contact with this nasty slime as possible. But no, humans are sometimes even weirder than the creatures we feature here! Researchers are envisioning the hagfish slime to create clothes for us to wear. Yes, you read that correctly. Someday we could be seeing Mark Jacobs sending his {fabulous} line of hagfishware down the catwalk. You see, as of right now most synthetic fabrics (such as nylon and spandex) are made using oil and as we all know, oil is a dwindling resource. A new source will be needed in the future and that’s where hagfish slime comes in.

pacific hagfish slime, animal defense

photo via: thefrisky.com

There are a few reasons why the slime might be useful in the fashion world: it’s incredibly strong, easily stretched, and when it dries, the texture becomes silky. While a hagfish only reaches up to a foot in length, one animal alone contains hundreds of miles of slime. That’s why researchers are trying to replicate the proteins of hagfish slime as we speak, in order to be able to manufacture an artificial product with similar properties. (source)

So you’re welcome Featured Creature readers, you’re now one step ahead in terms of fashion style. Work it!

Northern Fulmar

nothern fulmar, animal defense

photo: Steve Metildi

Habitat: subarctic regions of the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans.
Status: Least Concern

The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) was first described by Carl Linnaeus 1761, based on a specimen from within the Arctic Circle, on Spitsbergen. It looks very similar to your standard sea gull, however it is actually a member of Procellariidae family, which include petrels and shearwaters instead of gulls.

The term ‘Fulmar’ actually means “foul gull” and that’s exactly why this bird makes our list. The young chicks of the Northern Fulmar have evolved a unique defense mechanism that turns them into incredibly unsavory morsels. Though, from simply looking at them you would never be able to guess that these oh-so-fluffy birds are absolutely revolting creatures.

Northern Fulmar chick (Fulmarus glacialis), animal defense

photo: George Stoyle
“What? I’m just a sweet, innocent little chick….”

Northern Fulmar chick (Fulmarus glacialis), animal defense

photo: http://shetlandpetrels.blogspot.com
the face of nasty comes in a surprising form

When confronted by anything- whether that be predatory eagles or a poor, unsuspecting passerby – the fulmar chick will PROJECTILE VOMIT all over the intruding creature’s face. The stream of bright orange puke creates a rotten fish smell that won’t come off of the unlucky animal no matter how hard it tries.

Oh, and not only does the poor bird intruder have to suffer the putrid stank, the oil in the vomit coats the feathers of the bird so that they stick together – rendering it unable to fly. When the horrified birds try and flee the island of misfortune into the water, they are unaware that the vomit oil coating their feathers will take away their buoyancy; meaning they end up drowning.

Lovely little birds these Fulmars are, wouldn’t you agree?

Pygmy Sperm Whale

pygmy sperm whale, animal defense

photo: WaterFrame/Alamy

Habitat: throughout the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Status: Data Deficient

Everyone knows about Sperm Whales… but did you know that there were pygmy sperm whales swimming around out there, too? The Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps) is actually one of three species of toothed whales in the sperm whale family. At birth they are about 3 ft 11 in. in length but mature to aruond 11 ft. Adults weigh about 880 lbs. They are hardly ever spotted at sea due to their preference to remain in off-shore waters at depths of anywhere from 1,300 to 3,300 ft. Therefore, most of the information (which is little at best) comes from stranded specimens. The total population of this species isn’t even known!

size compared to an average human!

What we do know about them is probably the nastiest aspect of the animal in general. Since pygmy sperm whales don’t have the size advantage that their cousins do when faced with danger they had to come up with another defense strategy. When faced with a predator attack from dolphins or sharks, the Pygmy Sperm Whale will secrete an anal syrup into the water. The whale then stirs up the water with its fins to create a giant poo cloud in which it can take cover in.

sperm whale poop, animal defense

photo: Tony Wu

No predator wants to venture into THAT! And that’s just what the pygmy sperm whale is banking on. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, they aren’t only able to produce one cloud at a time. Oh no, my friends, these whales will keep on producing poo clouds if they are pursued (WHY WOULD YOU GO AFTER IT?!) until the aggressor gives up.

pygmy sperm whale poop, animal defense

photo: Tony Wu

I’d nope the heck out of there at the first meet and greet with the stinky poo cloud of doom. Sharks and Dolphins must have a much higher tolerance for diluted whale crap than I do…

Leopard Sea Cucumber

leopard sea cucumber, animal defense

photo: Zubi

Habitat: Western Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean
Status: No Conservation Concerns

Ah, the Sea Cucumber. One of nature’s weirdest creations, in my humble opinion. This particular species is the Leopard Sea Slug (Bohadschia argus) which is shaped like a sausage with various dark spots surrounded by white haloes. It can grow up to two feet in length.

What makes this creature so wonderfully disgusting is its remarkable defense mechanism. Like other sea cucumbers, the Leopard Sea Cucumber has one way of protecting itself – and it’s just crazy enough to work. When threatened, the sea cucumber will begin to violently shake its body until it has expelled its sticky intestines and other organs… out of its anus. The sticky intestines latch onto the attacker, entangling it in this morose web. This really throws the predator off track and usually sends it on its way.

leopard sea cucumber, animal defense

photo: Wolfgang Poelzer

In some species of sea cucumber, the intestines are poisonous, containing a toxic chemical called holothurin which really irritates the skin of the offending creature.

While this whole process might seem quite exhausting and elaborate – I mean, think about it, wouldn’t you be tired after spitting out all of your guts from your butt? – it’s actually not that harsh on the sea cucumber. It takes around 6 weeks for the missing body parts to be completely regenerated. Isn’t that incredible? I mean it’s really, really gross… but still incredible.

Horned Lizard

texas horned lizard, animal defense

photo: Amy_b

Habitat: North America; ranges from Colorado and Kansas to northern Mexico (in the Sonoran desert), and from southeastern Arizona to Texas.There are also isolated, introduced populations in the Carolinas, Georgia, and northern Florida. May be native to Louisiana and Arkansas
Status: Least Concern
*note: this species is in sharp decline over a large part of its historical range and is listed as a threatened species by the State of Texas.

I’ve posted on the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) in the past but it just has too creepy of a defense strategy not to be included on this list.

As you can see from the photos above, its coloration proves very useful when camouflaging itself in its rocky and arid environment. However, hiding is only the first line of defense for this rather diminutive lizard species, which can grows on average to 2.7 in from snout-vent. When it really feels like it’s in trouble, the Texas Horned Lizard will restrict the blood flow leaving its head, thereby increasing its blood pressure until it ruptures the tiny blood vessels around its eyelids. The lizards are able to squirt an aimed stream of BLOOD with precision for a distance up to 5 feet!

Not only does the blood squirting confuse predators, but the blood apparently tastes pretty foul, making the lizard seem incredibly unappetizing. The gross taste is only picked up by feline and canine predators, however. So if the danger posed to the lizard comes in the form of a bird it might want to utilize one of the other tricks it has to make a smooth getaway. This includes (other than camouflage), puffing up its body as to appear larger than it actually is (and thus more intimidating), elevating its head so that the sharp horns on its cranium are aimed at the would-be attacker, or run in short bursts and then stop in order to confuse the predator’s visual acuity.

Whatever method it chooses to escape, the Texas Horned Lizard definitely stands a fighting chance against its tormentors with its wide array of defense strategies, especially the disgusting blood spewing trick.


Cereal Leaf Beetle

cereal leaf beetle, animal defense

photo: Ken

Habitat: native to Europe and Asia, parts of northern Africa; now present in the United States
Status: No Conservation Concerns

So the above beetle looks like a nice enough insect, am I right? It’s sort of attractive with its iridescent blue wing plates and red body and at only 3/16 inch in length how bad could they be… right?

Well, first off, these Cereal Leaf Beetles (Oulema melanopus or Lema melanopa) are major agricultural pests. They dessimate crop populations of wheat, oats, barley, rye and other grasses. Serious eradication efforts didn’t begin in the United States until 1960s when entire oat fields were being destroyed. To stop the bugs from completely ruining the crop population, parasitic wasps were introduced in an attempt to have them feast on the insects and bring them into submission. Insecticides were also employed. While the fact that it’s a major nuisance to farmers is upsetting, nothing is quite as disturbing as the defense mechanism employed by the larvae of the Cereal Leaf Beetle.

What you see above is the larvae of the Cereal Beetle… covered in its own feces. Can I get an ‘EWWWW’ now? K, thanks. So what it does is, the larva will coat themselves in this jelly substance that contains expelled poop. It’s basically mimicking bird poop, which as we all know (except for maybe one freak out there reading this) that bird poop is not the most sought after meal on the menu.

This particular larva shown above has another hitchhiker besides the load of poop fascended to its back – that pesky parasitic wasp’s baby I was telling you about earlier. You can see it if you look closely; it’s right in the front between the last two legs looking like a tiny worm. The wasp larva will ultimately eat the beetle larva and emerge from its skin once its done with its pooptastic meal. MMmmm! Delish!

These photos show what the larvae look like without the jelly poop casing across its back. It’s still kind of sluggy-looking, but definitely no where near as stomach churning as the top left photo in the series (the poop master).


So there you have it. Six of the most disgusting animal defenses in nature summed up just for you. Hope you enjoyed! If so, please take a moment to share with your friend who could use a good “I think I’m going to throw up” moment. I know we’re all always lusting after those, after all….