Deadliest Defense Mechanisms Animals Use To Protect Themselves, From Dangerous Predators

In the animal kingdom, it's survival of the fittest, and some animals use insane and deadly defense mechanisms to stay alive!

Animals will do anything to stay alive. But some go to extremes you can’t even imagine. Some insects literally explode to help protect the colony, and some lizards push their own bones through their skin to create deadly weapons.

You know about venomous snakes, jellyfish, and spiders, but did you know there is a slow loris that covers its entire body with poison from its armpits? What other insane ways do animals protect themselves? Let’s find out.

We’re going to start with some of the weirdest and deadliest defense mechanisms in the animal kingdom. Our first animal ejects a slimy non-toxic substance from its body to deter predators. However, even though the slime itself isn’t poisonous, it can be deadly for a different reason.


17. Hagfish

Multiple Pacific Hagfish, by Linda Snook, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) / Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They look like giant worms with two sets of razor-sharp teeth. If that doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what will. What makes this animal even more insane is that the teeth themselves aren’t its most deadly defensive weapon.

Hagfish are considered living fossils because they have been around for around 300 million years with very little evolutionary change. This is because the terrifying monster is super successful at surviving thanks to its weird traits.

Hagfish mostly scavenge at the bottom of the ocean, but sometimes they find themselves under attack by predators. When this happens, the hagfish does something that can literally suffocate their attacker to death.


Hagfish are capable of secreting a slimy substance out of their skin. But it is what this slime does after it’s in the water that is incredible. As the hagfish fills the water around it with slime, the predator will inevitably get some into its gills. When the slime and water mix, the solution begins to expand.

This means any slime that the attacker ingested will also expand, causing blockages in the attacker’s breathing organs. If enough slime gets into the gills of an attacker, it can cause them to suffocate to death. And if you weren’t scared before, think about this.

If the animal attacking the hagfish dies by suffocation, its body will sink to the bottom of the ocean. At this point, the hagfish might swim up to it and begin tearing it apart with its razor-sharp teeth. The predator has now become the meal for the hagfish. Like we said: these animals are the stuff nightmares are made of.


Some animals can produce deadly toxins, which can kill any predator trying to attack them. But what if a creature doesn’t have venomous spit or poisonous skin? What if instead of shooting venom at its attacker, it shot them with their own organs?

16. The sea cucumber

Sea cucumber, by Hans Hillewaert, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The sea cucumber actually does this when it is threatened or under attack. That’s right, a sea cucumber’s defense mechanism is to spill its guts… literally. You might think this would be deadly to the sea cucumber itself as there are very few animals that would be able to survive if their internal organs ended up on the outside of their body, but this creature seems to be unphased by it.

Sea cucumbers don’t move very fast. Their locomotion is controlled by either using their tiny tube feet to scurry along the ocean floor or to swim through the water by flexing their body. They can also just relax and let the ocean currents carry them from place to place.


However, sea cucumbers will never be fast enough to outswim a predator, and although they have a small mouth and teeth, it is not enough to scare anything that wants to eat it away. So, the sea cucumber has evolved an incredibly bizarre yet effective way to fight off and even kill its attacker.

As a predator approaches, the sea cucumber ejects its intestines and other slime-covered organs out of its anus and towards the threat. The organs can then get wrapped around the attacker and caught in its gills.

This not only incapacitates the animal trying to eat the sea cucumber but can cause it to suffocate to death. The internal organs also sometimes contain a poison called holothurin, which can also be deadly to the sea cucumber’s attacker.


The craziest part is that once the sea cucumber ejects its internal organs to defend itself, it will carry on as if nothing happened. The reason sea cucumbers don’t die from this defense mechanism is that they are echinoderms.

Echinoderms also consist of creatures like sea stars, sea urchins, and blastoids, which can all regenerate damaged or lost body parts. A good example of this is when a sea star loses one of its arms, it can grow the entire appendage back. The sea cucumber uses this ability to regrow its internal organs after using its original set as a deadly net to deter or even kill a predator.

The sea cucumber’s defense mechanism is pretty insane, but there are a few animals that can top it. Instead of shooting out internal organs, some insects literally explode to protect their colony.


15. The Malaysian “Exploding” Ant

The Malaysian “Exploding” Ant, by Noel Tawatao, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This ant has a unique way of protecting the others in its group. If threatened, these ants will tear themselves apart by flexing their abdominal muscles. When this happens, their back end explodes, releasing a poisonous sticky fluid created by glands within the ant’s body. This deadly substance sprays out all over the invader causing it to get stuck as other ants tear it apart.

Unfortunately for the Malaysian ant, this defense mechanism is deadly for both parties. The attacker gets covered in the sticky substance, which incapacitates and slowly kills it as the toxins disrupt life functions. When the Malaysian exploding ant ruptures its abdomen, everything within its body comes out.

The toxic substance is ejected onto the invader along with the ant’s guts and innards. However, this is an extremely effective way of protecting the colony as a whole. Unfortunately, the bigger the invader, the more explosive ants need to be dispatched.


This can lead to multiple kamikaze ants detonating all at once to stop the invader. However, this isn’t a huge loss in the grand scheme of things as the colony can be made up of millions of ants.

There is another animal that also uses an exploding defense mechanism to protect its colony. The difference is they are much more efficient than the Malaysian exploding ants.

14. Certain termites

There are termites found in French Guiana that blow themselves up to protect their colony. However, they seem to be a little more clever when sending termites into battle to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the masses.


Most of the time, the older worker termites are sent on the explosive defense missions. Over the lifetime of a termite worker, glands in the abdomen produce toxic crystals that are stored until the day a bombing mission is needed to save the colony.

The older termites are less useful as workers but more deadly as suicide bombers as they have accumulated more toxic crystals within their abdomens. When the colony is under attack, these older workers are sent into battle, where they mix chemicals from their salivary gland with the crystals.

This causes a chemical reaction that results in a small explosion. The toxic substance then covers the invader and paralyzes them. At this point, the other termites can tear the invader apart, giving this termite species the ability to protect themselves from most attackers.


Sticking with the insect kingdom, there is one animal that oozes one of the most deadly toxins out of its body as a way to kill anything trying to eat it.

13. Motyxia millipedes

Glowing model of Motyxia sequoiae (about 18x natural size) at the American Museum of Natural History, by Eden, Janine and Jim, licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

These are pretty awesome for a couple of reasons. Not only do they have a deadly defense mechanism, but they also glow in the dark. They do this using a process called bioluminescence, where chemicals within the body mix to allow them to glow.

There are a couple of reasons why the Motyxia millipede does this, but the main one is to serve as a warning to predators not to mess with them.


The bioluminescence itself is not deadly to predators, but there is something else that the Motyxia millipede releases that is. All along their body are pores that the millipede oozes cyanide from. Cyanide is incredibly toxic to almost every animal on the planet.

Therefore, the bioluminescence serves as a warning to others that if they try to eat the Motyxia millipede, they will likely die in the process. It would only take a single bite of the cyanide-covered millipede for a beetle or rodent to ingest a deadly dose of the chemical. Therefore, if a predator sees a millipede glowing in the dark, they know to stay as far away from it as possible.

There is one animal that is super cute but also super deadly. This next animal covers itself in poison that it secretes from its own armpits.


12. Slow loris

Slow loris, by David Haring, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The pygmy slow loris can be found in the rainforest of Vietnam and Laos. But don’t let those big cute eyes fool you; this animal has a deadly defense mechanism to keep predators from attacking it.

Pythons and hawks hunt the pygmy slow loris. However, in order to make itself a less desirable and more deadly target for these animals, the pygmy slow loris secretes poison from glands in their armpits. They will use their hands to rub this poison all over their body so that if a predator does try to eat them, they will be poisoned in the process.

This serves as a deterrent for predators. The pygmy slow loris lives up to its name as it is only 15 to 25 centimeters in length and is not very fast. But the poison it secretes sends any creature that ingests it into anaphylactic shock, causing their airways to close up. The small animal does something even crazier with the poison from its armpits, though.


It will actually rub it onto their teeth, giving the animal a deadly bite as well. The bite of a pygmy slow loris that has rubbed poison on its teeth can rot flesh. This highly efficient defense mechanism makes this species of slow loris one of the most poisonous mammals on the planet.

There are some reptiles that have some pretty unbelievable defense mechanisms. In fact, several species will actually break their own bones just to make themselves more deadly. It is both a gruesome and fascinating defense mechanism.

11. Hairy frog

Hairy frog, by J. Green, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The hairy frog doesn’t have poison or venom, but when under attack, it can create claws out of its own bones to fight back with. The hairy frog does not have any claws in normal circumstances, but if a predator tries to attack it, the frog will break its own finger bones and push them through its skin. This allows the hairy frog to use the sharp bone fragment as claws similar to Wolverine from the X-Men.


Think about how crazy that is. The hairy frog literally breaks its own fingers and then pushes the sharp fragments of bone through its skin. This must be painful, but it is also highly effective at fighting off predators and can even be deadly in the right circumstances. If the hairy frog punctures its attacker in just the right spot, it could cause life-ending damage.

Relatively little is known about this frog from Central Africa. In fact, scientists aren’t even sure what happens to the bones or the frog after the threat is dealt with. It is hypothesized that when the frog relaxes, the bones slide back under the skin, but they probably don’t heal for the rest of the frog’s life. Whatever happens, this might be one of the most badass defense mechanisms in the animal kingdom.

The next animal has a similar ability to the hairy frog, but its bones are poisonous, and it is not the finger bones that get broken.


10. The Iberian ribbed newt

The Iberian ribbed newt, by Peter Halasz, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Iberian ribbed newt, also called the Spanish ribbed newt, has a crazy way to defend itself from predators. The ribbed newt will push its ribs through its skin to create poisonous spiked barbs when under threat. This is not only intimidating but can be deadly as well.

The Iberian ribbed newt pushes its ribs out of its body by bending at an angle and thrusting its ribcage up through its back. This sounds incredibly painful, but it is highly effective for fending off predators. What makes this maneuver so deadly is that the pointy ribs can puncture the mouth of whatever creature is trying to eat the newt.

The ribs themselves are not poisonous, but as the newt pushes them through their body, glands in the skin cover the bones in poison. Once the predator bites down on the newly formed spikes, the poison can be injected into their body.


Researchers have found that it doesn’t seem to hurt when the Iberian ribbed newt uses this defensive strategy. This seems unbelievable, but when scientists have observed the process in the wild, the newt appears to walk away from the altercation unharmed.

It would appear that the newt just needs to re-adjust its body to move the ribs back into the correct position, and the punctures in the skin will heal over time. This highly effective defensive mechanism is not only deadly to the predator in some instances but can also be done repeatedly if the newt is attacked multiple times during its life.

One animal takes a different and very unique approach to killing its attackers. Instead of producing its own poison, it eats deadly plants and uses the toxic compounds in them to keep predators away.


9. Potato beetle

Potato beetle, by Scott Bauer, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Nightshade is a deadly plant for many insects, animals, and even humans. The potato beetle, on the other hand, is able to handle the poisonous compounds in the plant and use them to its advantage. When this insect eats nightshade, it takes the nutrients it needs and then converts everything else into waste. The waste we’re talking about here is poop. The crazy part is that the potato beetle does something really strange with its fecal matter.

After the nightshade is digested, its toxins are trapped in the potato beetle’s poop. Using its abdominal muscles, the potato beetle covers itself in its own toxic feces. This is called a “fecal shield,” and is an excellent way to keep predators from eating the beetle. If a predator does decide to take a bite out of the poop-covered potato beetle, it won’t live long enough to regret it as the chemicals from the nightshade will likely kill them within seconds.

If you’re feeling a little queasy after that last form of defense, you’ll want to prepare yourself for the way fulmars protect themselves. Their defense against predators is even more gross than the potato beetle covering itself in poop.


8. Fulmars

Fulmar, by Andrew Dunn, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Fulmars are seabirds that look similar to seagulls. They are relatively small compared to other birds, making them a target for hungry predators. However, fulmars have developed a unique and very gross way to defend themselves. If threatened, the fulmar will vomit all over their attacker. This is obviously nasty, but there is something much more sinister about the vomit than it just being gross.

When the fulmar vomits on a predator, a special oil from their stomach gets mixed into the concoction. Normally the fulmar is just aiming for the face of its attacker, which is enough to deter it as the stomach acid likely stings the eyes and smells incredibly unpleasant. However, researchers have recorded the vomit getting onto the feather of predatory birds and causing them to mat. When this happens, it can cause the other bird to lose its ability to fly.

The defense mechanism of vomiting on an attacker likely wasn’t meant to be deadly. Instead, it was a way for the fulmar to buy itself enough time to get away. But if the attacker is unlucky enough to get the vomit all over their feathers and lose their ability to fly, they wouldn’t be able to hunt and therefore will either be an easy target for another predator or starve to death.


Let’s now talk about a defense mechanism you are likely familiar with: venom. However, the most venomous animal on the planet is likely not what you think.

7. Marbled cone snail

Marbled cone snail, by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The most venomous animal on the planet is not a snake, spider, or scorpion. It is actually a snail, the marbled cone snail to be exact. This unassuming mollusk is only 3 to 15 centimeters long, yet it contains enough venom to kill over 20 humans.

This defense mechanism is used not only to protect the snail from being eaten by predators but also to incapacitate its prey. Their prey consists of marine worms, small fish, and even other snails. Since the marble cone snail can’t move very fast, it injects its venom into a nearby animal via a barb that acts like a spear gun.


The marble cone snail patiently waits for an unsuspecting victim to pass by. When another animal is in range, the snail shoots out its poisonous barb like a dart. This barb can reach speeds of 400 miles per hour, which means anything within striking distance is pretty much dead.

And if any predators even think about attacking the marble cone snail, it will be the last thing they ever do. Once the marble cone snail feels threatened, it will attack anything close by with its deadly venom-covered barb.

The ocean is a dangerous place. This is even more true when you consider the marble cone snail is not the only highly venomous creature that lives in its waters.


6. Box jellyfish

Box jellyfish, by Guido Gautsch, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The box jellyfish is another deadly sea creature that uses venom to protect itself from attackers. However, this jellyfish can sometimes kill other animals by accident due to its powerful toxins.

Although the marble cone snail has the most deadly venom, the box jelly is responsible for many more human deaths. Since the 1950’s, over 5,500 people have died as a result of the jellyfishes’ stings. But the box jelly’s venom evolved to be used for protection and to capture prey, not to kill humans.

This sea creature is so deadly because the toxins in the venom shut down the nervous system of any creature that is stung. This is an excellent defense against things that are trying to eat it, but since box jellies don’t have much control over their tentacles, it can be deadly for anyone or anything that is just passing by.


There is another sea creature with a similar capability as the box jelly, except this animal is highly intelligent.

5. Blue-ringed octopus

Blue-ringed octopus, by Jens Petersen, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The blue-ringed octopus is about the size of a golf ball, but like with the marble cone snail, it is clear size doesn’t matter when you have deadly venom. The venom of this octopus is enough to kill a human in just a few minutes. And the scariest part is, there is no antitoxin. The blue-ringed octopus uses its deadly venom to protect itself from any animal that might want to eat it.

In fact, the blue-ringed octopus’s bite isn’t even supposed to be painful. But that doesn’t matter because the venom is so strong that it begins to shut down the nervous system almost instantly. Any creature that makes the mistake of going after this octopus will likely be dead within minutes. Its muscles will stop working, eventually causing the heart to shut down and the predator to sink to the bottom of the ocean to await death.


Now don’t get us wrong, there are definitely snakes and scorpions that have ridiculously deadly venom that they use to defend themselves. For example, the world’s largest venomous snake can kill pretty much any attacker in under 15 minutes.

4. King cobra

King cobra, by Michael Allen Smith, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The king cobra can grow up to 18.5 feet long, making it the longest venomous snake in the world. The scientific name of the king cobra is Ophiophagus hannah. Ophiophagus means “snake-eater,” which is an apt name for the king cobra as one of its main sources of food is other snakes.

The primary predator of the king cobra is the mongoose, which is resistant to the venom. But to protect itself from other predators like birds of prey, the king cobra can deliver a deadly amount of venom to keep them at bay.


This snake’s venom is so deadly that if it bites a full-grown elephant on the trunk, the elephant can succumb to the toxins and die within three hours. That is a huge animal that can be taken down by just one bite from a king cobra.

The next animal has a deadly sting, but its name might be the most terrifying thing about it.

3. Deathstalker scorpion

Deathstalker scorpion, by Ester Inbar, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The deathstalker scorpion packs a huge punch that any animal brave enough to get close to it will feel. Its stinger contains a deadly neurotoxin that can incapacitate any animal it comes in contact with.


The venom the deathstalker creates causes numbness and swelling but can also cause the heart to shut down, killing its attacker. Its venom is so potent that it can actually put a human into a coma and cause massive convulsions. So, don’t let the size of this scorpion fool you. Its venom is deadly, and it isn’t afraid to use it to defend itself.

This next animal may have the most unique defense mechanism out of any animal in the entire world.

2. Boxer crab

Boxer crab with sea anemones, by prilfish, licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The boxer crab lives up to its name as it does something absolutely crazy with its claws. Yes, this crab uses its claws to punch away attackers, but they take this defensive maneuver to another level. The boxer crab creates a symbiotic relationship with sea anemones and uses them as boxing gloves.


This symbiotic relationship is incredible. Since the sea anemones are covered in stinging cells that most fish and other sea creatures steer clear of, they serve as highly effective weapons for the boxing crab.

By using the anemones as boxing gloves, the crab can increase the effectiveness of each punch. To be fair, a sea anemone sting is normally not deadly, but a well-placed punch to a fish’s gills or face would definitely be enough to deter the predator from eating the boxer crab.

This relationship also benefits the sea anemone. By being connected to the boxer crabs claws, it gets carried from place to place so that it can reproduce and find new sources of food. Sea anemones are stuck in one spot unless their spores get carried in the current to a new destination.


However, once an anemone starts growing on coral or a rock, it cannot move. This problem is overcome by hitching a ride on the claws of a boxer crab. This allows the sea anemone to move around with its new companion to areas rich in nutrients. Also, the relationship allows the anemone to bud and reproduce in different areas based on where the boxer crab travels.

This is a unique relationship based around working together more than causing death and destruction. But a precision strike with an anemone-covered claw by a boxer crab could end up being fatal to anything trying to attack the dynamic duo.

If you thought the boxer crab and sea anemone were unique, there is another animal that has the ability to make its own antifreeze to protect itself from the cold.


1. Wood frog

Wood frog, by Brian Gratwicke, licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Obviously, ingesting antifreeze is not a good idea as it’s a toxic substance. But the wood frog actually creates its own antifreeze in its body. This keeps the frog from freezing to death in frigid temperatures.

It does this by secreting water out of all its internal organs, which results in the frog being covered in ice. Then urea and glucose accumulate in the body, which acts as a natural antifreeze to keep the cells alive while the outside world is freezing.

Although this would not necessarily make the wood frog poisonous like the antifreeze that we use in the radiators of cars, it would still be a nasty meal with all of that built-up urine in the body.


Depending on how many antifreeze-filled wood frogs a predator eats, they might consume enough urea to cause a harmful build-up of the chemical in the body. Theoretically, if the animal didn’t excrete the urea before it reached toxic levels, the natural antifreeze the frogs produce to stay alive could be deadly to whatever animal consumed it.

Featured image: Deathstalker scorpion, by מינוזיג, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons