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The Smarts Of the Small

Being small has its advantages and disadvantages. But being small doesn’t mean that you can’t protect yourself. Let’s explore the world of tiny creatures. They may be as small as a human fingernail, but they are so powerful. Some have very unique adaptations that help them survive.

small animals, ecology, veterinary science, science, animal science, biology, interesting biology

Meet the baby planthoppers! Most are less than half an inch big. The baby planthoppers are interesting little creatures with interlocking legs that can let them leap away in the blink of a second. The gears synchronize their legs. No other creature on Earth has them.

On the other hand, springtails jump away from predators without using their legs. Their tailor

snail, ecology, veterinary science, science, animal science, biology, interesting biology

furci bends around, their lips go to their bellies, and it flings them far away. They are a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch in size.

There are some fast tiny creatures! However, not all of them are fast. Some are very slow- like sea slugs. Nudibranchs are less than an inch big. They can’t move fast, but they have other ways of protection. They squirt their predators with toxic darts. They steal these toxins off some other ocean creatures.

Millipedes are slow too. They have up to one thousand three hundred and six legs, which is more than any other creature on Earth (they don’t wear shoes). They are less than an inch in length. They, too, have to defend themselves. So, upon threatening danger, they can curl into a spiral and squirt stinky, blistering chemicals which is stored in their glands.

Armor can be a source of protection too. It is very useful for the "tiny" like young caddis flies or larvae. They build armored cases out of twig bits and leaf shreds and glue them together with stretchy silk. These even hold together underwater!

snail, ecology, veterinary science, science, animal science, biology, interesting biology

Algae like diatoms are so tiny that between ten to one hundred could fit side by side in a drop of water! They build beautiful shells out of glass to keep them safe.

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars wear a costume to keep predators away. They are up to two inches long, but their disguise is so realistic. Curled up inside a leaf shelter and using the two fake eyespots they have, they almost look like a snake. That scares away their predators, the birds, spiders, robber flies, and dragonflies trying to eat them.

The Asian Jewel Beetle ranges in size up to three inches, although most are less than an inch. It hides by using its body to reflect colors that change with the light.

Not all methods of protection are that beautiful though. The palmetto tortoise beetle (0.18 to 0.22 inches) has a pretty gross way, as smart as it is. It hides in a pile of poop thread or creates a fecal shield. It’s a bit disgusting, but it does the trick, it protects them from their predators. It must be horrible for that poor beetle, but as long as it's safe, it’s okay.

snail, ecology, veterinary science, science, animal science, biology, interesting biology
Palmetto Tortoise Beetle

Though, these clever methods of protection don’t always work, so what if you get eaten? Most animals would die, but not the water scavenger beetle. This 1.6-inch beetle will be alright! It just walks out the backdoor. Once it’s inside the frog that ate it, it uses its legs and escapes the frog’s innards to its butt. The frog poops it out. Not a great meal choice for the frog, but a very smart method for the beetle!

Nature has given all organisms a way to protect themselves, including these tiny creatures who all are unique and have unique features that help them survive.




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