As early as 1879, biologists have known about the Spanish ribbed newt’s tendency to use its rib bones as weapons, but only recently has x-ray imaging been used to observe how they do it. When the newt is agitated or distressed, it will swing its ribs forward, increasing their angle to the spine by up to 50 degrees so they can pierce the skin and act like defensive barbs against potential predators (yes okay, like Wolverine). So not only is this Spanish newt willing to use its own structural anatomy as a defense mechanism, but it is also quite happy to stab itself right through its own body walls in the process.
Furthermore, the Spanish ribbed newt has the ability to excrete a poisonous milky substance onto the skin when threatened, which effectively turns its exposed rib points into very handy stinging tools, according to zoologist Egon Heiss of the University of Vienna in Austria.
And in more overly-defensive animal news, a new species of deep sea worm has just been discovered by a team led by Karen Osborn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, which they’ve rather aptly named Swima bombiviridis. Not only do these four-inch-long eyeless worms have scores of bristles on either side of their body to allow them to paddle forwards or backwards very fast, they also have a renewable supply of eight little sac-like appendages or “bombs” attached to their bodies, just near the head. When agitated or threatened, the Swima will release their bombs, causing a chemical reaction which will instantly produce a bright green bioluminescence designed to distract their predators while the Swima paddle backwards to safety. “There are no other annelids that have structures like this,” Karen Osborn told the press.
So I’m going to go ahead and shotgun not sharing a house with these two really highly-strung organisms. You’d be like, “Hey after dinner do you guys want to play Risk?” and they’ll both express interest with aplomb because neither of them have played it in ages and they remember it to be all kinds of awesome fun. So you’re all setting up your pieces in their allocated territories and you’re like, “I’m getting a tea, do you guys want one? Yeah? Earl Grey, Earl Grey, peppermint. Got it.” But then you go to get the milk out of the fridge and there’s none there and you’re like, “Fuck. Did either of you two use the last of my milk and not tell me?” and Swima bombiviridis shrugs uselessly as he shifts his artillery around China, while Spanish ribbed newt is looking hell-uncomfortable and just keeps staring at Brazil. So you’re all, “Newt…?” and he’s like, “Nah dude, I don’t even drink milk… Shit,” as his ribs explode violently from inside his torso. So you serve Swima bombiviridis his black Earl Grey tea with a pointed sigh and Spanish ribbed newt sheepishly sucks his ribs back in so the game can get underway.
But less than twenty minutes later it suddenly dawns on you how full the recycling bin in your kitchen is and you’re like, “Oh my god, Swima bombiviridis, did you forget to put the bins out last night…?” and Swima bombiviridis suddenly shoots backwards over the top of the couch while releasing half a dozen fluorescent green bombs which proceed to bounce onto the coffee table and send Spanish ribbed newt’s Greenland infantry flying haphazardly into Alaska. The agitated newt begins to secrete his milky poison all over the couch.
Swima bombiviridis eventually inches his way back towards the couch, muttering something about needing a toilet break, and you’re all, “Whatever man, it’s your turn.” So then you’re like, “Who wants ice-cream?!” and Spanish ribbed newt and Swima bombiviridis look at each other in alarm and start to sink lower into the couch and you’re like, “Uhh kay, I’ll take that as a yes,” because neither of them have never not wanted ice-cream before. But then you open the freezer and, OH MY GOD – it’s empty – and you spin around, arms akimbo, ready to scream profanities at all and sundry, only to see a lone, milky Spanish ribbed newt urgently trying to push all of his ribs back in amid a telling wave of fluorescent green floaty bomb-sacs that have irrevocably scattered your infantry all over the Europe and into the North Atlantic Ocean.
* Swima pics courtesy of Karen Osborn.