NOV 18, 2016 7:21 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
MAR 25, 2020
Cardiology
MAR 25, 2020
Staying Fit While Avoiding COVID-19
For those used to working out at a gym, the current circumstances requiring us all to remain isolated as much as possibl ...
MAR 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 30, 2020
If Gravity Has Mass, This Could Explain Dark Energy
The Big Bang purportedly transpired 13.8 billion years ago, and even so, the universe continues to expand even today. Bu ...
APR 02, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 02, 2020
Diagnosing Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial personality disorder (APD), a mental disorder, is sometimes referred to as sociopathy. Persons with the disor ...
APR 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 27, 2020
Hubble Snaps Gorgeous Photo for 30th Anniversary
The Hubble Space Telescope surpassed its 30th year in space on Friday, April 24th. Being that it’s one of the most ...
APR 30, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 30, 2020
NASA's Laser Satellites Help Scientists Quantify Sea Ice Loss
Global climate change is melting Earth’s ice, and a recent study from NASA details how the polar ice sheets have c ...
MAY 17, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 17, 2020
Male Garter Snakes Trick Others to Improve Own Mating Success
After spending several months in hibernation during the winter, male garter snakes emerge from the underground where the ...
Loading Comments...