NOV 18, 2016 07:21 AM PST

How Vomiting Evolved to be a Defensive Mechanism

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

For some animals that don't have sharp teeth or claws, or other types of classic defense mechanisms, evolution has helped them build a new way to defend themselves. Think nasty, pungent, slimy, and even corrosive barf. Yes, this is a defense mechanism, and it's pretty effective too!

This strange coping strategy is popular among many bird species. For example, vultures are known to induce vomiting as a way to drive away predators. Furthermore, the vulture's emesis is highly acidic, ranging between pH 1 and 2. This is enough to burn some thin-skinned predators if they happen to venture too closely to the vulture.

Other birds that use their stomach content as natural "pepper spray" include herons, gulls, and the European roller.

Interestingly enough, if vomiting is considered a defense mechanism, then some people would also consider human morning sickness during pregnancy a form of defense barfing. Though the act isn't directed at any one predator, per se, the common nausea and vomiting in the early trimesters may be a way to protect the mother-to-be and fetus from potentially toxic foods.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 24, 2018
Videos
OCT 24, 2018
How do our brains recognize faces?
Brain studies consisting of fMRI experiments will measure brain activity during tasks to asses how we perceive faces. The fusiform area (FSA) was found to ...
NOV 11, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 11, 2018
Stop Procrastinating, It's Not Good for You
Procrastination is common, but some people procrastinate much more than others. Those who do it persistently probably exhibit something known as chronic pr...
NOV 14, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 14, 2018
The Remarkable Life of Marie Skłodowska Curie
November 7 was the birthday of Marie Skłodowska Curie, a pioneer of nuclear research who achieved many "firsts" in the world of science. She was...
NOV 20, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 20, 2018
This Massive Impact Crater Was Hiding Underneath Greenland's Ice
After searching the ice-covered lands of Greenland, scientists have discovered what appears to be a massive impact crater that was previously hidden by mor...
NOV 24, 2018
Videos
NOV 24, 2018
Bats may Hold the Secret to Longevity
Some bats can live for up to 41 years, and many have a very healthy life....
NOV 25, 2018
Videos
NOV 25, 2018
What If Earth Spun the Other Way?
If once upon a time the Earth spun the other way—the seasons wouldn’t change because of the Earths tilt. But, what would change is the climate ...
Loading Comments...