Humans may be at the top of the food chain, but there are some areas where we’re definitely lacking. Like do you really think you have any type of defense if a lion is after you? Or a hippopotamus? Or even just an angry dog? Other animals might not have the technology or opposable thumbs that humans use to protect their status at the top, but they do have some truly incredible adaptations to help them survive in the big, bad world. Here are some weird and bizarre animal adaptations.
…and they’ll fall off if threatened. A lot of species of geckos, including leopard and fat-tailed, have the ability to drop their tails if grabbed, or even if they just get scared. The tail will twitch on the ground to distract the predator so the rest of the gecko can escape. Eventually it regrows. The tail looks like the head of the gecko, confusing predators so they’ll try to grab the expendable end.
If you thought a regenerating tail was impressive, how about regenerating an entire body? The turritopsis nutricula jellyfish dissolves into a blob on the ocean floor when threatened, barely resembling a living organism. When the danger has passed, it reverses the transformation and reforms its body. Scientists have been unable to determine if there is a limit to this metamorphosis. The turritopsis nutricula could be doing this indefinitely.
Anybody who has stepped out into the African sun knows that it is strong. As hippos spend all of their days basking in its glory, they need a natural sunscreen. Although mud works to an extent, hippos secrete a red substance from their pores that absorbs ultraviolet light and protects them from sunburn. Because of the color, it’s nicknamed “blood sweat,” though there is no actual blood pathogen in it. It also helps prevent against the growth of bacteria on their skin.
When threatened, the Spanish ribbed newt has the ability to thrust its rib bones out to create defensive spines, and coat them with a toxic substance that is also secreted from the skin. The process is actually pretty incredible: the newt rotates its ribs forward until they pierce through warts in the skin and form sharp, lethal points. Try chomping down on that, predators!
If you’re a shrimp, it helps to have a built-in ray gun for protection. The piston shrimp has one claw bigger than the others. When threatened, it can pull it back to release the pressure that’s built up in between the interlocking parts, emitting a scorching hot wave of bubbles. This renders predators unconscious, allowing the feisty little shrimp to get away!
This is exactly as gross as it sounds. The blood of the Texas horned lizard has an unappealing taste to predators, so it tries to give its predators a pre-taste so they won’t be inclined to eat it. From its eye. The lizard shoots the fluid directly from the eyeball, giving it the appearance of a crying vampire or walking zombie. A pretty good disincentive to predators, if you ask me.
The incredible camouflage abilities of the spicebush swallowtail are unprecedented in their variety. In its early stages of metamorphosis, the caterpillar looks like a blob of bird droppings on the tops of leaves. In its next stage, it turns into a larger green caterpillar, but with the shape and markings of the head of a snake! The caterpillar head retracts inside, and would-be predators are startled by what appears to be a tiny snake leering back at them.
The hoatzin bird, a relative of the cuckoo, has some of the most bizarre offspring you’ve never seen in the bird world. Hoatzin chicks are born with hands. Sharp-clawed hands protrude from the wings, and the chicks are able to climb trees. It’s thought that these are an evolutionary adaptation that can be traced back to the dinosaurs, but either way, it’s pretty cool.
If you banged your head against a tree all day, you’d probably end up with a pretty bad concussion. Luckily for woodpeckers, they have developed thick neck muscles to absorb the force of the blow, despite the fact that they slam their beaks against wood with more than 10 times the force of a race-car crash. They also have a third inner eyelid to keep their eyes from popping out during slamming sessions.
Some guitar players will keep one fingernail long in order to pluck the strings better, and the aye-aye developed something along these lines long before guitars came along. These bizarre-looking creatures in Madagascar are one-foot-tall primates, and feed primarily on termites and other insects. The incredibly long middle finger allows them to reach bugs in hard-to-reach places in wood. They have the added benefit of always looking like they’re flipping you off.