Jan 06 2014

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Seriously disgusting

But then, if you want to repel nuisances, I guess being disgusting is a good strategy.


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  1. 1

    Having grown up in Montana, I still cringe when I hear someone pronounce “coyote” with three sylables.

  2. 2
    CaitieCat, getaway driver


    Pero tiene tres sílabas! Qué raro que Inglés es.

  3. 3
    Robert Blaskiewicz

    Sweet merciful crap.

  4. 4

    So what’s the coyote’s problem with blood?

  5. 5

    I have seen this. Used to pick up these little guys when I lived in Arizona. Most never did this defense, but a couple did.

  6. 6

    I still cringe when I hear someone pronounce “coyote” with three sylables.

    it ain’t wrong, pardner.

    As for the horned lizards, the blood-squirting thing appears to be a specific defense against canid predators (coyotEs and foxes), and apparently works by tasting really nasty. Research is ongoing, but it’s believed that the foul taste comes from sequestered ant toxins.
    couple of citations:

  7. 7

    Went herping in AZ last year and got one to do it. It was pretty fantastic sight. I think they lose something like a third of their blood volume, which makes it a costly strategy. This defense only seems to work on canines and possibly other mammals. But is ineffective against raptors. Not all members of the genus have the ability, and no one really knows what makes it an effective deterrent. I think the most popular idea is likening their blood to hot sauce: palatable only when diluted in a bowl a chili…or something like that.

  8. 8

    Thanks ChasCPeterson

  9. 9

    If I remember correctly, Phrynosoma has a cavity in its head where it can redirect and pool a lot of blood. This allows it to bask buried in the sand with just the top of the head exposed, while warming the blood throughout its body on a cold morning. This existing ability to quickly regulate the blood pressure and volume in its head presumably allowed for the evolution of the blood-squirting defense.

  10. 10

    @2 and 6: Yeah, I know. But Ky-oat is how I grew up. And that large buff-colored cat is a mountain lion, not a cougar or puma.

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