11 Animals That Use Odour As A Weapon
By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 31 July 2014.
By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 31 July 2014.
Animals are equipped with a wide variety of sophisticated biological weaponry: teeth, claws, venom, body armour and more. Perhaps the least heralded type of natural weaponry, however, is that of odour. Stinkiness might not get much credit for its effectiveness as a weapon, but it can be formidable. Ask yourself if you could handle a tangle with any of these pungent creatures. We have a feeling you'd prefer to keep your distance!
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Photo: Dan Dzurisin/Flickr
Skunks are perhaps the most widely known animals with smelly weaponry. They produce their noxious fumes from two glands, one on each side of the anus. The smell is so offensive that most predators don't bother messing with them, despite their relative lack of defense. The skunk's characteristic white stripes serve as a warning to any potential threat.
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2. Bombardier beetle
Photo: David Hill/Flickr
These ground beetles, which inhabit every continent besides Antarctica, might be the most fearsome fetid animals of them all. When disturbed, they can squirt a foul-smelling, boiling-hot chemical spray with impressive accuracy. Not only does the spray stink, but it's also painful. Heat produced from a chemical reaction in the fluid can reach the boiling point of water, and it's corrosive to the skin as well. Worse yet, the insect can swivel its gland openings and fire the hazardous spray across a wide range, machine gun-style.
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Photo: Ian White/Flickr
These African birds, which occupy habitat south of the Sahara Desert, prove that birds, too, can produce stinky weaponry. Females generate a dark, foul-smelling oil from a specialized gland, which they use when their nests are under threat. This oil can be sprayed, and is not something you want staining your clothing.
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Photo: Mariomassone/Wikimedia Common
The zorilla, or striped polecat, might look like a skunk, but it's actually a different kind of animal entirely. A specialized member of the weasel family, this smelly carnivore has adopted the same coat coloration as the skunk to make it easier for potential predators to identify them and stay away. It lives in the dry savannahs and open country of Africa. Its stinky anal emissions can also temporarily blind predators if sprayed in the eyes and can cause a painful burning sensation on the skin.
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5. Stink bugs
Photo: jacinta lluch valero/Flickr
The name given to this family of insects pretty much says it all. Two glands on a stink bug's thorax are responsible for producing its smelly secretions, which deter predators from taking a bite. The animals also have a repulsive taste, so plugging your nose won't help if for some bizarre reason you're inclined to take a bite anyway.
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6. King ratsnake
Photo: Allentchang/Wikimedia Commons
This serpent is also sometimes called the "stink snake" or "stinking goddess" because of the stench it is capable of emitting. Its post-anal glands are often emptied when the snake is disturbed or handled, which produces a strong, pungent odour. Like many animals with odorous weaponry, the snake uses its smell as a defense mechanism.
7. Turkey vulture
Photo: Linda Tanner/Flickr
Unlike many other creatures with foul-smelling secretions, turkey vultures do not have specialized glands that produce a stinky fluid. Instead, they merely have to regurgitate their last meal as self-defense. Because vultures typically consume carrion, their vomit is especially foul-smelling, with the overwhelming odour of rotting flesh. They often leave chunks of vomit around their nests to deter predators from attempting a raid.
Photo: Gilles Gonthier/Flickr
These bugs got their name because of old wives' tales that tell of them burrowing into humans’ brains through the ear. Luckily, those tales are false, but these creepy-crawlies do have an equally repulsive trait. Some species can squirt jets of a foul-smelling urine-coloured liquid from scent glands when threatened. They are capable of squirting this fluid and using their pincers at the same time.
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9. Honey badger
Named for their appetite for honey, these fierce carnivores have a defensive trait hardly as sweet-smelling as their favourite food. Honey badgers can turn their anal pouch inside out, which produces a musky stench that can be suffocating. Aside from deterring predators, this trait may also help honey badgers procure their prized honey by having a calming effect on bees.
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Photo: Jmalik/Wikimedia Commons
These leggy bugs are not biters like centipedes are, but they have another form of weaponry. Many species can emit various foul-smelling liquid secretions through microscopic holes called ozopores along the sides of their bodies. These secretions can also burn the skin, so handling millipedes is not recommended, even if you can stand the stench.
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Photo: Pdreijnders/Wikimedia Commons
Minks are another member of the Mustelidae family (including otters, weasels, badgers, wolverines and polecats) that can produce a smelly defense. Though not as pungent as skunks, they can excrete an odorous fluid from glands when threatened. They might be cute, but they're musky too.
Top image: Turkey vultures. Photo: docentjoyce/Flickr.
[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]