By Christina Wilsdon
Animal Defenses (Animal habit)
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Additional resources for Animal Defenses (Animal Behavior)
LOSING LIMBS AND TAILS Some animals whose tails are grabbed have a surprise in store for their attackers. Shockingly, their tails break off while their owners escape. Many North American species of skinks, for example, have bright blue tails when they are young. A skink’s blue tail works as a deflection display to protect its head. But if a predator actually seizes the tail, it breaks off. The skink runs away, leaving its tail wriggling and squirming behind it. The predator gets nothing but a bony mouthful.
Now, because of a recent discovery in sea slugs, researchers are taking a closer look at the ink. certain species of sea slugs also produce inky clouds. the ink was known to taste bad. now, however, scientists know that the ink changes the behavior of a predator called the spiny lobster. chemicals in the ink seem to muddle the lobster’s actions. An “inked” lobster gives up its attack on a slug. it may groom itself and begin digging and grabbing at the sand with its claws, as if it were feeding.
The plastron is made of bone, too. In most species, the outside of the carapace is covered with plates made of a tough material called keratin—the same substance that forms hooves and fingernails. These plates are called scutes. Some turtles have just a few scutes embedded in a thick skin on the carapace. Some have none at all. Many turtles can pull their heads, tails, and legs partly or fully into their shells. Box turtles have hinged plastrons, so they can close the openings in their shells. Desert tortoises fold their thick, scaly legs in front of their withdrawn heads to form a shield.