Colobopsis ants explode when they are losing a fight, a behavior which is probably meant to discourage predators from hunting that species. It may also turn tides when in ant wars for territory.

Would it be possible for vertebrates, specially mammals and birds to develop that ability, either through evolution or genetic engineering? If so, by what mechanism could they blow themselves up?

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    $\begingroup$ Uh, there is a rather prominent example of humans doing this... $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 23 '19 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @vlaz I've never seen anyone blow up like that. Can you provide a link? $\endgroup$ – Renan Jan 23 '19 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ I'm talking about terrorists. Technically, they would count as vertebrae exploding. The evolution is us being intelligent. The mechanism is explosives worn on the body. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 23 '19 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Colobopsis ants "explode" in a minimalist sense of the term: their skin tears to expose their insides. They do not explode in the Hollywood sense of the term: the insides become the outsides with such force that Vin Diesel is thrown backwards. Are you literally looking for what the Colobopsis ants do? flex so hard their skin tears? Or are you looking for the Hollywood solution? (Ironman comes to mind... "Can you regulate?") $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 23 '19 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ Skunks can do essentially the same defensive action without exploding. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 23 '19 at 17:34

Exploding toads.


The toads' grisly deaths are, in fact, a well-documented phenomenon. First recorded in Germany in 1968, exploding toads have been reported in the country, as well as in Belgium, Denmark and America. Hamburg's toads started to explode during their week-long mating season. Dr Mutschmann believes the crows went in for the kill when the toads were too busy enjoying the heights of sexual excitement. "They would have noticed something as the crow pecked at them, but it wouldn't have been particularly painful," he said.

Toads puff up with air as a defense - it makes them scary and also hard to swallow. If a crow has eaten your liver and left a hole but you did not notice at the time, and then you try to puff up, you will explode.

Maybe sometimes toads explode without crow help. If you are overenthusiastic with this particular defense and take it too far, you could pop. If you are full of poison that might spread it around. Taking one for the team in this way would be helpful for your siblings, who would then be avoided by any predator involved in the exploding.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer but they did ask for specifically mammals and birds. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Jan 23 '19 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon I said just specially, not specifically. But anyway, it is a no brainer to have this mechanism working for other vertebrates. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jan 23 '19 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ Add this to any bird that inflates it’s crop as a display of dominance and you have instant bomber pigeons. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 23 '19 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs or you might get a...birdemic $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 23 '19 at 16:59

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