velvet worm

The Morning GIF: Nature's slime guns

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Here at the Daily Dot, we swap GIF images with each other every morning. Now we’re looping you in. In the Morning GIF, we feature a popular—or just plain cool—GIF we found on Reddit, Canvas, or elsewhere on the Internet.

It creeps silently, blindly, lolling obscenely, tentacles waving, 'neath the rotting carcasses of dead and decayed vegetation in the fetid darkness of the forest floor. Suddenly, it strikes!

You've been slimed!

The velvet worm, whose scientific name Onychophora means "claw bearers," is a forest invertebrate that hunts its prey with what the Science Llama Tumblr terms "spray-and-pray" tactics, using guns that launch cold slime instead of hot lead. The unhallowed hunting technique is explained thusly:

In order to detect prey it senses slight changes in air currents with bumps on its skin and chemical sensors on its antennae to let them essentially taste something to determine if its food. When a prey item is eventually encountered, the slime is forcefully squirted through oral papillae near the head and launched up to 30cm in a sort of spray-and-pray manner. Once the slime contacts the victim, it quickly dries ensnaring it, where now the worm then seeks to eat the organism by injecting its saliva and digestive enzymes turning the innards into a slurpee.

Delightful. A crawling, protean thing, essentially mindless yet equipped with uncanny senses that let it taste you remotely as you stroll by, heedless of being obscurely nommed by this writhing mass of cold flesh. A writhing mass of cold flesh which then shoots out adhesive slime to immobilize and totally gross out its helpless prey.

The truth is not only stranger than fiction, it's considerably more revolting.

If you'll excuse me, I have to brush all this salt off my laptop...

GIF set via WhenScienceCalls/Tumblr