In the freezing world of the Arctic, the walrus stands out as an exception to the rule. These highly social animals spend much of their time lounging around in massive herds, conserving energy.
Protected by their tough hide and a thick layer of blubber, walruses rely on their elongated tusks for self-defense and dominance during the breeding season. But there’s another surprising weapon in their arsenal that is commonly used but rarely witnessed: spitting.
Let’s explore how the rotund and easy-going walrus utilizes this unique technique in its quest for survival.
The Walrus – Spitting to Feed
Walruses, known for their tusks, become agile in the water, where they primarily feed on mollusks. To satisfy their voracious appetite, they must consume about five percent of their body weight per day.
With their spit technique, walruses draw in large amounts of water and fire a high-pressure jet stream at stubborn mollusks, clearing out debris and making it easier to consume their food. Once the flesh is devoured, the walrus simply spits out the remaining shells.
The Walrus – Vulnerabilities and Predators
While walruses’ spitting technique helps them feed efficiently, it offers little protection against the Arctic’s other predators. Despite being capable of defending themselves, healthy adult walruses face threats from polar bears on land and killer whales in the water.
These predators are equally determined and well-equipped, forcing the seemingly relaxed walrus to remain ever-ready in the unforgiving Arctic.
The Cobra – The Hooded Snake’s Secret Weakness
Moving to a different environment, we encounter the cobra, a feared creature in tropical forests and grasslands. The cobra’s hooded appearance, from which it derives its name, strikes fear into its adversaries.
However, this seemingly indomitable animal has a secret weakness. Unlike non-venomous snakes that constrict their prey, cobras rely on venom. Their small fangs and slender build make them vulnerable during hunts. To compensate, they bluff their way out of dangerous situations by rearing up and displaying their flattened neck, appearing bigger than they actually are.
The Cobra – The Deadly Spit
Some species of cobras possess an additional weapon: the ability to spit venom. By contracting their venom glands, spitting cobras can launch venom at high pressure through their fangs, directing it upward and outward.
This venom, combined with neurotoxins and cytotoxins, can cause damage and blindness if inhaled or coming into contact with a cut. Spitting cobras use this vicious defensive mechanism to deter attackers and protect themselves from birds of prey, rival snakes, and mongooses.
The Jawfish – Spitting for Survival
Transitioning to the underwater realm, we encounter the jawfish, a small fish species found in oceans worldwide. Jawfish possess enlarged heads, bulbous eyes, and cavernous mouths. These features serve them in multiple ways, including digging burrows to create safe spaces from predators.
The jawfish uses its mouth to scoop up sand, pebbles, and coral rubble and then spits them out to create its burrow. While spitting is not an effective deterrent against predators, jawfish can spit gravel as a sign of aggression when defending their territory against intruders.
The Jawfish – Beyond Spitting
The jawfish’s reliance on its mouth extends beyond digging and spitting. Males of the species practice mouth brooding, incubating their eggs by holding them in their mouths. They open their mouths to aerate