Like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, there are some species in nature that just don’t look like killers. But looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to animals, especially those with sharp claws and teeth, it is always best to err on the side of caution. You might not see any of the rather exotic creatures on this list in your neighbourhood, but as a rule it is probably best to avoid reaching down to pet any animals that you don’t know, because they may just decide to gobble you up.
10. Box Jellyfish
These diaphanous creatures have a dreamy, otherworldly quality as they float in the water, tentacles streaming out behind them. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, though – box jellyfish are among the most venomous creatures in the world and their stings are excruciatingly painful and often fatal. Rather than drifting, the box jellyfish actively hunts its prey. Each tentacle has about 5,000 stinging cells which deliver a toxin that attacks the heart, nervous system and skin cells. Victims who do survive experience considerable pain for weeks and often have significant scarring where the tentacles made contact with their bodies.
9. Stone Fish
As you can see, the stone fish is easy to miss – no one could really blame you if you accidentally touched one and began screaming in total agony. The stone fish is the most venomous fish known, with a row of thirteen spines along its back which project from venom glands. The stone fish doesn’t mean to hurt anyone; it’s only dangerous when stepped on or caught and the venom is involuntarily expelled when pressure is put on the spines. The sting causes excruciating pain, dramatic swelling and death of the affected tissue as well as weakness, temporary paralysis and shock. Depending on the depth of penetration and number of spines involved, death can result if the injury is untreated.
8. Honey Badger
The honey badger is known as the most fearless animal on earth, braving the deadliest of animals without a moment’s hesitation and almost always winning in battles to the death. They’ve got incredibly powerful jaws and knifelike claws, making up for what they lack in size with their awesome ferocity. The honey badger goes straight for the scrotum when attacking large male animals. They are commonly seen attacking and eating cobras, and though the toxins might knock them out for a few minutes, they get right back up and resume their meal. Amazingly enough, these little creatures gets their favorite snack – honey – by literally stupefying bees with the scent they release from their anal glands as they swirl their tails, sometimes doing handstands to spread the suffocating odor.
7. Arctic Fox
The Arctic Fox might just be one of the cutest, most cuddly-looking creatures on the planet. It almost looks like it should be peeking out from a Swarovski crystal-studded designer dog purse carried by some Hollywood starlet. But, don’t be fooled: this little tundra-dweller chows down on baby seals and also dines on voles, hares and ground squirrels. It puts its ear to the ground and listens for the movement of these small animals underneath, jumping up and down to break through the snow with its front paws when it locates its prey. When times get tough, the Arctic Fox becomes a scavenger, following polar bears to eat the scraps left over from their kills.
6. Komodo Dragon
The Komodo dragon is the world’s heaviest living lizard, and can grow up to 10 feet. It may look like it would be slow and lumbering, but it’s actually agile and fast-moving. Its teeth resemble those of flesh-eating sharks and its mouth is full of virulent bacteria which, if its prey survives an attack, will cause it to die later from infection anyway. The Komodo dragon is cannibalistic, eating its own kind when particularly hungry. They’ve been known to kill and eat humans, attacking a group of British divers this summer and killing an 8-year-old boy in 2007. According to the Honolulu Zoo, an eyewitness account revealed that a 101lb Komodo dragon ate a 90lb pig in 20 minutes, the equivalent to a 100lb person consuming 320 quarter pound hamburgers in the same amount of time.
5. River Otter
River otters are playful, inquisitive, social and undeniably cute. They primarily prey on fish, though they occasionally eat animals as large as muskrats. And though they don’t exactly have a taste for humans, they have on occasion mauled unsuspecting people swimming in lakes and rivers, and have even been known to jump into boats in unprovoked attacks. In one almost comical instance, an aggressive river otter hurled itself into a boat full of college wrestlers as they frantically tried to fight it off with their paddles. A rabid otter attacked a pregnant woman in 2006, clamping onto her thigh as she emerged from the water. Her sister had to beat it on the head with her fist to get it to let go.
At first glance, mongooses resemble ferrets, those cute little animals many people keep as pets. But, when a mongoose rears up on its hind legs and opens its mouth, you become aware pretty quickly that it’s not about to curl up docilely on your lap. These sleek little mammals are pretty indiscriminate predators, eating everything from insects and rodents to birds and reptiles. In fact, some species of mongoose have been known to take on cobras – and win. Indian snake charmers often pit these two creatures against each other in shows for tourists.
The platypus looks like some tragic mistake of nature, with its stocky furry body, oversized webbed feat, beaver-like tail and of course its trademark bill. This egg-laying mammal may look awkward, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. The male duck-billed platypus is actually venomous, releasing a defensive substance from spurs on its ankles which, though it may not kill humans, causes a pain so excruciating it can leave you incapacitated.
2. Short-tailed shrew
The short-tailed shrew looks like a strange cross between a mole and a mouse, with its conical body, long pointed nose, tiny beady eyes and naked tail. But this animal is no herbivore. Don’t be surprised if you come across a little shrew with an equal-sized mouse in its mouth. In order to sustain their high metabolism, short-tailed shrews must eat several times their own weight each day. Since they don’t have big, powerful jaws, you might be wondering how this little animal could eat another animal its own size. The answer is venemous saliva, injected into the wounds of its prey through its teeth.
The common chimpanzee is often seen as having many characteristics that are similar to those of humans, and violence is no exception. They have over five times the upper body strength of a typical human male and will attack and kill humans when they feel threatened. Two chimpanzees mauled a visitor to a California sanctuary in 2005, chewing off his nose and severely injuring his genitals and limbs. A terrible accident occurred in the US in 2009, when a supposedly domesticated chimp attacked a woman and bit her face off – literally. Really – monkeys belong in a forest, just like Mother Nature intended.
This is an interesting video clip from BBC that captures a group of wild chimps in a territorial battle, and gives a view of the animal that is much more realistic than the cute little trained pets that we are used to seeing on TV and in the movies:
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