biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow spit saliva

A Slippery Issue

Saliva, Spit and Slobber

“Beware, we spit”. This is what it says in front of the llama enclosures of many zoos. But llamas are not the only ones that have perfected this kind of activity. The small Australian town of Manjimup hosts annual spitting championships; the South African “rinkhals cobra” (Hemachatus haemachatus) spits venom over distances of just over 2 metres into the eyes of its foes; archer fish are famous spitters and knock down insects from leaves above the water, and the match-stick long, wormlike members of animals known as Onychophora (e.g., Peripatus spp.) eject sticky fluid from oral glands to pin down and immobilize prey of beetles, spiders and slaters that they then consume. A similar method is employed by the “spitting spiders” of the genus Scytodes: they don’t snare their prey in webs, but when located with their extremely sensitive touch receptors on their legs, they spit some gooey liquid up to 2 cm over their prey. The liquid hardens, pins down and immobilizes the prey. —>—>