Depending on how you look at it (or how close you look at it), feeding can be a pretty disgusting habit for most creatures. If disgusting, than at least disturbing in its nature – putting the remains of another creature in your body and mashing it to a paste before finally swallowing it.
But we’re some of the least disturbing feeders in nature, as there are creatures out there, on our planet, that are just waiting to become the subject of a horror story or worse. Finally discovering the answer to a mystery that’s been going around for quite a while, scientists reveal that hydras rip their own bodies apart when feeding.
Tiny creatures about half an inch in length, hydras are quite strange beings. Their body is basically a small cylinder, and they have a number of tentacles on one end of the aforementioned cylinder. Mostly observed microscopically, the world of science hasn’t paid that much attention to them before.
Right off the bat you can see the similarities between the tiny animals and the mythical animals that were also referred to as hydras. The tentacles could be confused with heads, as they are situated at one end of their body, and their healing factor is amazing, being able to quickly heal a large assortment of injuries.
Researchers knew before how the process worked, but they didn’t know exactly how the creatures opened their mouths. If the feeding process sounded disturbing before the big reveal, the scientists were even more disturbed at what they found out.
When preparing to feed, hydras attach their non-tentacled end to a hard surface, like a rock or another outcropping in the water and they spread out their tentacles. When a tiny marine creature, like a shrimp, touches their tentacles, tiny barbs shoot out, impaling the creature.
Now that the meal is ready, hydras are ready to start eating. So, they rip apart their bodies in a process that lasts about sixty seconds, and their mouth slowly make their way from their insides to the outside. Next, the tentacles contract, dragging the impaled but possibly still alive creature into the nightmare-inducing predator’s mouth.
But that’s not all. After they’re finished digesting, the creatures begins the process again, ripping its body apart, taking its mouth out, and expelling the waste before getting its mouth back inside its body. Now, you might be picturing something like predetermined groves along which the creature’s body opens to reveal the mouth, like the poorly designed yet oddly disturbing vampires from Blade 2.
But you’d be wrong. The creatures actually contract their muscles so that their body is literally torn apart, as they can easily heal that wound. To test this, researchers gave the creatures muscle relaxants, and found out that they couldn’t open their mouths to feed, as they needed to contract their muscles so that their bodies could rip open.
Image source: Wikimedia