Giant velvet worms (Peripatus solorzanoi) are unusual creatures for many reasons — including the fact that they are “not worms, not insects, millipedes, centipedes, or slugs” — but their super-sliming glands, rapidly squirting a glue-like substance from two oscillating papillae, have been a mystery to scientists… until now.

At Adolfo Ibañez University in Santiago, Chile, Andrés Concha and his team have performed a series of high speed camera and anatomical experiments, and have figured out how the velvet worms trap prey and defend from predators with their chaotic squirting. From PopSci:

In a velvet worm’s body, the worm generates slime and stores it in a reservoir. When it’s ready, it squeezes it out like a syringe through papilla, microscopic spigots on the body that are flexible, kind of like an accordion.

The researchers found that the worms didn’t control the direction of the papilla directly. Instead, they just shot slime out through the papilla, and the speed of the slime through the small opening was enough to make it oscillate, like water speeding through an “unattended garden hose,” as the authors noted in a press release.

You can read more about the study in Nature.com. It’s also a great reason to watch the NatGeo Wild clip above: World’s Deadliest – Bizarre Slime Cannon Attack. Related reading: A velvet worm named for Totoro.

Watch this next: A close up look at velvet worms.

Via National Geographic.

See more videos about...