As a nature guide, I am constantly chasing the tides to show the wonderful array of life on our shores at low tides to my participants. No matter how many times I head out for intertidal walks (at ungodly hours, one might add), one thing that always amazes me is the plethora of techniques used by animals to defend themselves.
However, nothing compares to the stonefish. The fins on top of the animal’s body have sharp spines which are connected to venom sacs. When an unwary individual steps on this animal, the spines become erect, injecting venom into the body of the offender. One of my colleagues, who has had the unpleasant experience of stepping on this before, described it as a “burning, searing kind of pain that makes you wish you were dead.” #truestory
In contrast, some animals use this mechanism called active camouflage. An excellent example would be octopuses, which can change the colours and the texture of their skin to blend into the surroundings as they move from one place to another.
Besides this, when in a hurry, octopuses can also a) use jet-propulsion to make a quick escape, b) release a cloud of ink, which will act as a smoke screen, giving them time to escape, and c) even squeeze into very small or tight spaces, as they lack shells. Is it any wonder why these amazing creatures are often referred to as the masters of camouflage?
Some protect themselves by blending in. Others, by standing out. Warning colours are bright colours found on the bodies of organisms which serve as an indication to potential predators of their toxicity. The message here is “Hey! Don’t eat me, I am poisonous!”
That size is no indication of potential to cause damage is something that comes to mind whenever I chance upon a jellyfish. These guys have stinging tentacles that can be used to cause a great deal of pain to unwary swimmers.
Regardless of the number of times I see these organisms, I never cease to be amazed by the diversity of techniques deployed to protect oneself in nature. Each intertidal walk thus remains a wonderful journey of discovery.
Worth waking up at ungodly hours for? I certainly think so!
P.S. All the photos featured here were taken by me in Singapore.