The Tricks Toxic Animals Use to Avoid Poisoning Themselves

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Some of the world's deadliest animals come in small packages. Poison dart frogs, bombardier beetles, and box jellyfish all lack claws and fangs, but they pack enough toxins to bring serious harm or even death to their victims. We know why these toxic materials are dangerous to us, but why they seem to have no effect on the animals that produce them is less obvious.

As TED-Ed explains, poisonous animals have evolved one of two methods (or a combination of both) to safeguard themselves from their own attacks. Some use special compartments to keep toxic chemicals separate from the rest of their bodies. The bombardier beetle, for example, keeps the ingredients of its caustic spray in two different chambers in its abdomen. Only when the secretions are released together do they produce the scalding, noxious spray the beetle is known for.

Other organisms have evolved immunities to their own toxins. Like the bombardier beetle, snakes store their venom in a special compartment, in this case behind their eyes, but trace amounts of it are still carried throughout the bloodstream to build immunity. If a snake is exposed to its own venom, or venom from a snake of the same species, it has special antibodies in its blood to fight it.

Watch the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Massive Swarms of Migrating Dragonflies Are So Large They’re Popping Up on Weather Radar

emprised/iStock via Getty Images
emprised/iStock via Getty Images

What do Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio all have in common? Epic swarms of dragonflies, among other things.

WSLS-TV reports that this week, weather radar registered what might first appear to be late summer rain showers. Instead, the green blotches turned out to be swarms of dragonflies—possibly green darners, a type of dragonfly that migrates south during the fall.

Norman Johnson, a professor of entomology at The Ohio State University, told CNN that although these swarms happen occasionally, they’re definitely not a regular occurrence. He thinks the dragonflies, which usually prefer to travel alone, may form packs based on certain weather conditions. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is: Johnson said that entomologists haven’t worked out all the details when it comes to dragonfly migration. They do know that the airborne insects cover an average of eight miles per day, while some overachievers can fly as far as 86.

Based on the radar footage shared by the National Weather Service’s Cleveland Office, the dragonfly clouds seem almost menacing. But, while swarms of any insect species aren’t exactly delightful, these creatures are both harmless and surprisingly beautiful, at least up close. Anna Barnett, a resident of Jeromesville, Ohio, even told CNN that witnessing the natural phenomenon was “amazing!”

Amazing as it may be to see, it’s hard to hear news about unpredictable animal behavior without wondering if it’s related in some way to Earth’s rising temperatures. After all, climate change has already affected wasps in Alabama, polar bears in Russia, and no doubt countless other animal species around the world.

[h/t WSLW-TV]

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