The 6 Most Unlikely Partners in the Animal Kingdom

#3. The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula Keeps Toads as Pets

To a spider the size of a hairy, mutant child's hand, soft little frogs and toads are just another tasty meal that can do nothing to fight back. And to a soft little frog or toad, a baby spider is just as appetizing as a fly. This equation of mutual destruction is presumably no different for the Oklahoma brown tarantula, and the the Great Plains narrow-mouthed toad. Which makes it so strange that in the wild, Oklahoma brown tarantula burrows are often home to one or more of these inch-long toads. The two species manage to ignore the sign that blinks "Prey! EAT!" every time they pass one another in the hall, grudgingly respecting one another's fatal vulnerabilities much like the relationship between you and your cat.

What the Huh?

The little froggies devour any tiny bug other than freshly-hatched Oklahoma spiderlings, and are in turn left in peace by the monstrous momma spider. Why? Because narrow-mouthed toads are primarily adapted for eating ants, and a giant arachnid can defend its home from ants about as well as you can punch out bacteria. So the toad eats the tarantula's enemies, and in return it gets an armor-plated, venom-drooling roommate most frog-eating things would rather not mess with.

So we weren't just making a lame cat joke up there. It really is literally the same relationship; these spiders have learned to tolerate a tiny amphibian for the exact same pest control service that first brought together humans and felines. There's no word on whether or not aging, barren spinster spiders just surround themselves with toads and let them piss all over the ottoman, so we're going to go ahead and assume they do.

#2. The Sea Anemone Poisons Everyone But Nemo

It's hard to imagine anemone as predators, because they mostly just sit around looking like acid-trip flowers, wowing hippies and maybe occasionally squirting water at stick-wielding students on field trips to the beach. But they're really killers. Those pretty petals/tentacles are covered in cells that literally explode with poison when triggered, paralyzing prey and directing its inert body to the anemone's mouth. And as if getting gobbled up by a space-hippy flower wasn't bad enough, the whole thing looks like somebody exploded a butthole--it's just downright embarrassing to get killed by that.

Unless the animal wandering among the tentacles is a clownfish. Because the clownfish and the sea anemone have devised a diabolical partnership, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat tackled "Opposites Attract."

What the Huh?

As babies, clownfish work up an immunity to anemone poison by rubbing against their tentacles. Scientist think the anemone mucus and fish mucus mingle, until the poison flower eventually just thinks the fish is part of its own gross, undulating body. So the anemone provides the clownfish with a poisony hiding place, and Nemo returns the favor by bringing its friend scraps of food, fighting off anemone enemies or luring bigger fish to their lair to be murdered.


He's waiting for you.

Yeah, the movie didn't show you the whole "luring into murder" thing. Probably because it's hard to relate to the endearing father/son dynamic if their chief bonding activity is essentially the undersea equivalent of murdering hobos in a van together.

And speaking of anemone...

#1. The Boxer Crab and his Anemone Gloves

FACT: The ocean is crazy as crap. You need look no further than the relationship between the boxer crab and the anemone for proof of that. The anemone isn't just an anus mouthed magic-eye painting, at least not in the hands of the boxer crab. To the crab, the anemone is the perfect sidekick against predators and prey alike. There have been plenty of classic sidekick relationships: Batman and Robin, Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson; but the relationship between the anemone and the boxer crab is less like Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson, and more like Rob Schneider to literally anybody that will pay attention to him. See, this sidekick desperately grapples onto the host's body, permanently attaching to its claws like toxic mittens.

What the Huh?

Little Mac up there isn't just carrying those pompom anemones; they're actually growing on him. And he wants them there. He has straight up weaponized another animal. Because those precious mittens aren't just for flair, they're going to kill that crab some food. And for their services, the pompoms get some scraps and mobility. The only equivalent we can imagine would be if a whole race of people grafted angry toddlers to their arms, then walked around swinging those babies at would-be interlopers. This analogy especially works if the toddlers are dripping in poison and have dreadlocks.


Like this, but gloves.

The boxer crab just wanders around the ocean, knocking motherfuckers out with its poisonous predator fists. So when you lay your head on your pillow tonight, just before you close your eyes, remember this: You live in a world where things that look like a cross between a deep-sea spider and a cobra team up with venomous tentacled sphincters to uppercut poison into all that oppose them.

Sleep tight!

Jonathan Wojcik writes and draws about all things creepy and crawly at Bogleech.com. You can find Kristi at Funnycrave and Here-in-idaho.

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