When we think of dangerous creatures, our mind automatically goes to sharks, lions, bears, crocodiles, or other beasts like that. Though these are certainly some of the deadliest animals found on Earth, there are other, lesser-known creatures that are equally, if not more lethal, than them. While some of these contribute to significant loss of life, others pack enough venom or poison to put unlucky travelers out of commission. Here, we are going to take a look at 12 such dangerous creatures that you should stay away from at all costs!
1. Tsetse fly
If you are disgusted by houseflies, wait until you hear about tsetse flies!
Found pretty much all over tropical Africa, tsetse flies are large, biting flies that play a crucial role in transmitting diseases. These flies suck the blood of humans and animals for food.
When extracting blood from muscle tissue, the flies pick up pathogens from an infected host and then they inject the same pathogen into a previously healthy host. They are the biological vectors of trypanosomes, which cause animal trypanosomiasis and human sleeping sickness.
Tsetse flies prevent mixed farming in sub-Saharan Africa, and that is why they are considered as one of the major causes of rural poverty in the region. Lands that are infested with tsetse flies are cultivated using rudimentary tools instead of working animals because the flies transmit the nagana disease, which weakens and kills these animals.
Cattle that manage to survive the disease produce very little milk, and pregnant cows often suffer miscarriages. Because of this, farmers have access to very little manure to fertilize the soil.
Because of tsetse flies, around 4,000,000 square miles of fertile land in sub-Saharan Africa cannot be cultivated. Countries that are infested with this fly are debt-ridden, poor, and underdeveloped. (1, 2)
2. Indian red scorpion
Hottentotta tamulus, commonly known as the “Indian red scorpion,” is one of the most lethal scorpions in the world! Found all over India, eastern Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, the scorpion prefers humid tropical and subtropical habitats.
It is also often found in or near human settlements. Contrary to its common name, the Indian red scorpion comes in a range of colorations including brown, orange, and reddish-brown. It is also quite small, about 2.0 to 3.5 inches in length.
The Indian red scorpion does not necessarily hunt people, but it will sting anyone who comes in contact with it. It produces a powerful venom that affects the pulmonary and cardiovascular system and eventually causes pulmonary edema, which may lead to death.
Children are most likely to die from this scorpion’s sting, and clinical studies have recorded a fatality rate of 8 to 40%. When someone is stung, they may experience a plethora of unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, sweating, severe local pain, priapism, loss of consciousness, breathlessness, muscular convulsions, abnormal heart rhythms, shock, and many more. Scorpion antivenom has little to no effect in treatment.
Although they are dangerous, the Indian red scorpions are bred in captivity for medical research. Their toxins have special potassium channel-blocking peptides, which may be used as immunosuppressants for various autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. (1, 2)
3. Irukandji jellyfish
Irukandji jellyfish are several similar species of extremely venomous box jellyfish. They tend to be very small, and adults grow up to about one cubic centimeter in size. There are around 16 known species of Irukandji, and they are both the smallest and some of the most venomous jellyfish in the world!
Found in the northern marine waters of Australia, Irukandji jellyfish fire their stingers into unsuspecting victims, causing a variety of symptoms that are collectively known as “Irukandji syndrome.”
Some of the common symptoms include severe headache, muscle pains, backache, abdominal and chest pain, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, sweating, hypertension, pulmonary edema, and tachycardia. Though the symptoms show up gradually, they become more intense with time.
What’s worse is that because of its small size and transparent body, the Irukandji jellyfish can be difficult to spot in the water. Even their stings may be barely noticeable at first. Some describe their stings as slightly more painful than a mosquito bite.
You may know the pufferfish, commonly known as the “blowfish,” as that comical fish that balloons up whenever it is faced with a threat. Though it is famous for its unique defense mechanism, the fish is anything but funny!
Most of the pufferfish species are toxic, and they are also some of the most poisonous vertebrates in the world! In some species, the skin and internal organs, such as the liver, contain tetrodotoxin, which is a potent neurotoxin that is highly toxic to most animals when ingested.
In fact, tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide! One pufferfish produces enough toxin to kill 30 adult humans. What’s even more terrifying is that there are no known antidotes.
Surprisingly, in Japan and China, pufferfish meat is considered a delicacy, but only when they are prepared by specially trained chefs who can determine which parts are safe to eat and in what quantity. (1, 2)
5. Blue-ringed octopus
The blue-ringed octopus looks rather beautiful with its psychedelic coloring, and its small stature might make it look harmless. However, they are one of the most venomous marine animals in the world!
Found in coral reefs and tide pools in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the blue-ringed octopus can be easily identified by its yellowish skin and blue and black rings. When the animal feels threatened, these rings change color dramatically.
Though relatively docile in nature, the blue-ringed octopus can be extremely dangerous when provoked. They produce a venom that contains a potent neurotoxin called “tetrodotoxin.”
Their bites tend to be tiny and painless, which is why the victim may not even realize they have been envenomated until they start experiencing severe symptoms such as paralysis and respiratory depression.
Common symptoms may include blindness, severe and total paralysis, heart failure, respiratory arrest, and nausea. When left untreated, the symptoms can lead to death within minutes. According to experts, the blue-ringed octopus produces enough venom to kill 26 adult humans in a matter of minutes, and no known antivenom is available. (1, 2)
6. Giant Anteaters
The giant anteater also called the “ant bear,” is a mammal that eats insects. Native to South and Central America, the giant anteater is one of the four living species of anteaters. Found in rainforests and grasslands, the animal feeds primarily on termites and ants.
Giant anteaters have no teeth and they also have poor vision and bad hearing. Now, you might think that an animal named “ant bear” with such features cannot possibly be that dangerous. Well, you would be wrong!
Giant anteaters have sharp claws that can be as long as four inches! As solitary creatures, these animals are usually not aggressive. However, when cornered, a giant anteater will stand up on its hind legs and lash out with its deadly claws. They are so fierce that they can even fight off a puma or a jaguar!
In 2012, a 47-year-old man went hunting and was faced with an adult giant anteater. In a confrontation, the animal grabbed onto the man and injured him so severely that he bled to death at the scene. (1, 2)
7. Golden Poison Frog
The golden poison frog, also known as the “golden dart frog,” is one of the most poisonous animals on Earth. Endemic to the Pacific Coast of Colombia, the golden poison frog is found in rainforests.
They tend to be small, and adults can be only one inch in size. Because of their tiny stature, they may appear rather innocuous, but these wild frogs can be lethally toxic. In fact, a single specimen contains enough poison to kill ten grown men!
The skin of the golden poison frog is densely coated by an alkaloid toxin. The poison stops the victim’s nerves from transmitting impulses, causing the muscles to go into an inactive state of contraction, which can then lead to fibrillation or heart failure.
8. Reef stonefish
Synanceia verrucosa, also known as the “reef stonefish,” is the most venomous fish in the world! As the most widespread stonefish species, the reef stonefish is found in the shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea.
It grows up to about 30 to 40 centimeters long and has a grey or brown coloring. Their skin is uneven and rocky, which gives them the perfect camouflage in between corals and rocks. The dorsal area of the reef stonefish is lined with 13 spines. Each of these spines has two venom sacs.
These spines are so sharp and stiff that they can even pierce boot soles. What’s worse is that because of its camouflage, the reef stonefish can stay perfectly hidden, and any unsuspecting diver or snorkeler can step on it without knowing it is there.
9. Amazonian giant centipede
Scolopendra gigantea, commonly known as the “Amazonian giant centipede” or the “Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede,” is one of the largest centipedes in the world with adults reaching up to 12 inches in length.
Found in several places in the Caribbean and South America, the Amazonian giant centipede is a carnivore that feeds on any animal it can overpower and kill.
What’s interesting is that the Amazonian giant centipede cannot only overpower invertebrates such as millipedes, spiders, and scorpions, but it can also kill small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, sparrow-sized birds, bats, and mice.
They also produce a powerful venom that causes rapid paralysis in their prey. The nasty toxin wreaks havoc on the nervous, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems, which allows the centipedes to kill prey that is 15 times larger than them in a matter of 30 seconds! In 2014, a four-year-old Venezuelan child died after being bitten by a giant centipede. (1, 2)
10. Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
If you have arachnophobia or an intense fear of spiders, you might want to skip this one!
The Sydney funnel-web spider is a species of venomous spider that is native to eastern Australia. Adults have a body length of 0.4 to 2 inches, and they tend to be dark-colored with a glossy appearance.
One of Australia’s most fearsome spiders, the male Sydney funnel-web spider has been recognized as the most venomous spider in the world by the Guinness World Records. The spider produces a venom that is highly toxic for humans, and if left untreated, a single bite can cause serious illness or death.
The bite of a Sydney funnel-web spider tends to be very painful with clearly visible fang marks on the site. In some cases, the spider latches onto the victim after biting and does not move until it is forcefully removed. Some common symptoms include difficulty breathing, muscle twitching, secretion of saliva, confusion, disorientation, and unconsciousness. Once a child died within 15 minutes of being bitten by a Sydney funnel-web spider. (1, 2)
11. Cone snail
If you like going to the beach and picking up snails, you might want to rethink that!
Cone snails or cone shells are small- to medium-sized sea snails that look rather gorgeous. Their shells come in a great variety of colors and patterns and you may want to add some to your collection.
However, you should refrain from doing that since cone snails are extremely venomous and predatory snails that are capable of stinging humans. You must never touch live ones because they sting without warning, and a single sting can prove to be fatal.
The larger the cone snails, the more dangerous they are to humans. Their venom contains various toxins, and the deadliest cone snails are often called “cigarette snails” because they deliver a toxin so strong that death comes as fast as it takes a person to finish a cigarette.
12. Puss caterpillar
Here’s a caterpillar that looks more like a toupee, but before you think it is cute and kind of fuzzy-looking, know that it is also the most venomous caterpillar found in the United States.
The furry puss caterpillar sting feels more or less like a bee sting, but the pain is so intense that it can make your bones hurt! How bad the sting will hurt depends on where you have been stung and how many spines have lodged into your skin.