12 Animals With Stomach-Churning Defense Systems

The animal kingdom is full of interesting creatures, but not all of those creatures are nice to look at. But these animals who look disgusting aren't just doing it for fun - their ugliness is a survival mechanism. Some have frightening outward appearances to scare off enemies while others save their disgusting abilities for when they're attacked, but one thing is for sure: there are a whole lot of animals with crazy defense mechanisms.

It's a hard world out there for animals, and evolution often leads creatures to some very strange places, appearance-wise. While they might gross us out to look at, each one of these freaky abilities is a tool to stay alive. Each of these weird ways animals protect themselves are just a way to get by in a world full of things that want to eat them. Not everybody can be an apex predator, so it's just as important to look unappealing as it is to have the ability to fight of your enemies with pure brute force.

Whether it's coating themselves in slime or excrement, blending in with their environment, or wielding a powerful set of teeth, these animals have some of the creepiest, grossest ways of protecting themselves in the animal kingdom. 

Photo: Drow_male / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

  • Ribbon Worms Look Like Something Out Of A Sci-Fi Flim

    Ribbon Worms Look Like Something Out Of A Sci-Fi Flim
    Video: YouTube

    Ribbon worms are about as bizarre as creatures can get. These slimy-looking creatures of the Nemertea phylum feed by projecting their proboscis inside-out, which, in some species, spreads out into a bunch of threads like the one in the video. This sticky material can then be drawn back in, pulling prey with it.

    These creepy worms primarily live in marine environments, though a few are terrestrial, so keep an eye out on your next walk through the woods.

  • Turkey Vultures Vomit On Enemies To Escape

    Turkey vultures are far from beautiful creatures, but their defense mechanisms make them even more disgusting than they might appear. These birds gorge themselves on carrion - that is, dead, rotting bodies vultures detects with their highly developed sense of smell. They sometimes overindulge on food and have to regurgitate it in order to take off from predators.

    But they don't stop there: turkey vultures will sometimes vomit right onto their enemies to deter them with bile or potentially distract them from pursuing them further. Not only do predators not get a fresh, tasty vulture to eat, but they also get covered in stinging, rotting regurgitated meat.

  • Sea Cucumbers Fling Their Organs At Predators Through Their Butt

    Sea Cucumbers Fling Their Organs At Predators Through Their Butt
    Video: YouTube

    Sea cucumbers look and taste nothing like their vegetable namesakes. And for those sea creatures that try to take a bite, there's a bigger surprise in store than taste. Many sea cucumbers are toxic to begin with, but, because they rarely move, they're still vulnerable to predators.

    To fight off enemies, certain species have developed the ability to expel part of their respiratory system from their anus, distracting any threatening creature by tangling them up, sometimes with an accompanying toxin. The organs grow back over the course of a few weeks, giving the sea cucumbers a never-ending supply of toxic body parts to throw at predators.

  • Hagfish Drown Creatures in Biological Slime

    Hagfish Drown Creatures in Biological Slime
    Video: YouTube

    Hagfish look sort of like worms from the sea, but they ramp up the grossness with their unique defense system. When threatened, they can produce mass quantities of slime - over five gallons worth - from their bodies, filling the water with a goo that can clog the gills of attackers like sharks. 

    To prevent themselves from getting tangled in their own slime, hagfish tie themselves into knots. This slips off anything that might cling to them, and allows them to swim away while their enemy attempts to get the goo out of their gills.

  • Texas Horned Lizards Shoot Blood From Their Eyes

    Texas Horned Lizards Shoot Blood From Their Eyes
    Video: YouTube

    Texas horned lizards are already pretty intimidating with their spiked skin. But believe it or not, that's not the most horrifying thing about them. When threatened by predators, these lizards can squirt a stream of blood from their eyes and mouth.

    Aside from looking downright creepy to us, the blood also contains a repellent for creatures like wolves and coyotes. If they drop the lizard because of the blood stream, which can travel up to five feet, they're not liable to pick it up again after they've tasted the liquid.

  • The Hairy Frog Has A Wolverine-Like Defense

    Frogs are typically known for being slimy, but not this specimen. Breeding male hairy frogs have an interesting arrangement of dermal papillae - skin ridges like fingerprints - that develop along their sides and forelegs. These ridges are believed to help them breathe as they watch over eggs.

    But hairs aside, they have an even creepier defense. These hairy frogs break their own toes, push their bones through their skin, and ward of predators with their new sharp claws - almost like X-Men's Wolverine, minus the adamantium skeleton.