Nature and all her creatures, both great and small, are a constant marvel to scientists and everyone else. Nobody would argue with the claws of an Alaskan brown bear, or the thundering of a charging hippopotamus. But not all of natures creatures immediately strike you as aggressive or scary.
Some of them are downright cute and cuddly.
The river otter is playful and cute to boot, but when they feel threatened they don’t hesitate to attack humans. Packed with muscle and weighing up to 30 pounds, you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of their razor sharp claws and teeth.
The puffer fish with their big eyes and dopey looking expressions, you would think of them as cute and cuddly. But one prick from the spines of the fish can kill a man. They have a highly potent neurotoxin, known as tetrodoxin. These toxins deaden the tongue and lips, and induces dizziness and vomiting, followed by numbness and prickling over the body, decreased blood pressure and muscle paralysis.
So cute, yet so deadly.
Here are ten more of natures tiniest, but deadliest creatures.
10. Golden Poison Frog
Decked in brilliant red, yellow, blue and inky black, these tiny frogs are trippy to look at. They are quite tiny too, with adults reaching the size of a human thumb. But this is an example of the brighter the colors, the farther away you should stay from the creature.
This frog is native to tropical forests, from Brazil to Peru and has helped tribes here fight their enemies for centuries. Its skin secretions contain enough neurotoxin to kill two bull elephants or ten humans. By tipping their arrows in its skin secretions, the natives developed deadly weapons to kill their enemies with.
Travelers to the mountainous Brazilian Atlantic forest should take note as seven previously unknown, but equally poisonous species were recently discovered.
9. Irukandji jellyfish
Found in beaches from northern Australia to Florida, watching the box jellyfish is as dreamy as what you thought it would be.
Otherworldly. Ethereal. Dreamy. Deadly.
These creatures are extremely dangerous as their tentacles are loaded with toxin. The toxin is said to be 100 times more potent than a cobra and up to 1, 000 times worse than a tarantula. Impressive for a creature only about one cubic cm in size.
These tiny jellyfish have been known to fire their stingers at their victim. Due to their tiny size, their sting may not be felt immediately when they attack. But within 30 minutes, victims start to complain of severe headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, sweating. Without immediate treatment, victims experience tachycardia, increased blood pressure and go into cardiac arrest.
There is currently no known antivenom; treatment is by an immediate infusion of magnesium into the patients bloodstream. Its distant cousin, the sea wasp has the infamous record of killing more people every year than sharks and crocodiles combined.
8. Deathstalker Scorpion
Leiurus quinquestriatus is a species of scorpion native to North Africa all the way to the Middle East. Displaying bright green and golden yellow coloration, they grow to about 80mm long; some even keep them as exotic pets.
However, they are considered the deadliest of all scorpions. Their venom is a combination of neurotoxins, with toxicity levels of 0.16–0.50 mg/kg, indicating that this species has one of the most toxic venoms ever. A sting from a deathstalker scorpion always leads to anaphylaxis and death by accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Even when antivenom is available, there is always the chance that the venom is resistant to treatment.
7. Blue-Ringed Octopus
Don’t be fooled by the 50 blue shimmering rings that cover the yellow skin of this ocean dwellers dorsal and lateral surfaces. Dwelling in the shallow waters and coral reefs of the eastern Indo-Pacific Oceans, parts of Japan and South Australia, you are advised to swim the other way when you encounter this octopus.
Their brilliant colors and small size mean people tend to brush against them and even pick them up sometimes. But when agitated, they bite and release a neurotoxin, that is considered 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide.
This tetrodotoxin causes paralysis and respiratory arrest with minutes of biting, which quickly leads to cardiac arrest. There is currently no antivenom to the blue-ringed octopus tetrodotoxin.
Did you know that some spiders eat birds and snakes? Trust me, you want to keep away from the Golden orb-weaver spider which grows up to 5 cm (not including the leg span).
But this list is about much smaller specimens such as the redback spider. Male redback spiders are about 4mm long, and females can grow up to 10mm. Native to Australia, the redback has found its way to New Zealand, Belgium, and Japan hiding in grape exports.
The specie is related to the black widow and their venom is just as poisonous to vertebrates. The venom is a mix of neurotoxins and it was discovered that the spider can regulate how much venom it releases. This means some victims only experience a painful rash when bitten. Others experience the illness Lactrodectism, comprising of general pain, muscle rigidity, vomiting, sweating, swelling spreading from the affected area.
5. TseTse Fly
With their bulbous, prickly eyes, houseflies are some of the ugliest flies ever. But even they pale in comparison to the threat that is the tsetse fly. Armed with a long proboscis that it uses like a syringe, it spreads the disease across species through biological transmission and mechanical transmission.
This 10mm long insect has been around since prehistoric times and is the primary vector for sleeping sickness. The parasites it transmits cause confusion, severe lethargy, fever and anemia in humans and animals. Left untreated, this disease often proves fatal.
Because it infects humans and animals alike, it has a noticeable economic effect across the African Continent. It is estimated to be the cause of around 250-300 thousand victims per year.
If you have pets, you may have experienced having to deal with these at one point, but fleas are more destructive than making your corgi scratch. Historically, they were the primary vectors responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague. By feeding on the blood of infected rats and biting humans, they helped rapidly spread of the disease.
They are considered dangerous as they spread disease between many different species. They feed on all warm blooded vertebrates including dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, humans, rats and mice. Females can lay more than 5,000 eggs during their life and they often mature between 30 to 90 days. This rapid growth rate makes them ideal candidates for the spread of bacteria, viruses, protozoa etc. Their flat bodies also allow them to easily move and hide themselves on the host body or hair.
3. Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish
A cephalopod like the blue ringed octopus, Metasepia pfefferi is found in Australia, off the coasts of the Philippines, New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia. Despite its tiny (2 to 3 inch) frame, this fish is a bold predator who attracts its prey (other fish) with its ability to rapidly change color. They have absolute control over their complex nervous system, allowing them to change color and texture in the blink of an eye.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty colors, the cuttlefish possesses a neurotoxin rated as powerful as that of the blue ring octopus. Experts conclude that the toxin is contained in the flesh and suggest extreme caution when handling the cuttlefish.
2. Cone Snail
You wouldn’t normally associate snails with being poisonous, but this reef dwelling specie takes the cake. Hiding under the shell is a modified tooth that the snail shoots out like a harpoon to snare fish.
This tooth is hollow, barbed and lined with poison to instantly paralyze fish. However this poison is strong enough to kill a grown man. Members of the Conus specie have more than one harpoon, locked and ready to go at any one time. The harpoons fired by larger snails can pierce through gloves and wet suits, so humans are advised not to pick up these snails.
The venom of cone snails is complex and differs from specie to specie. Symptoms include localized pain, numbness and vomiting. Severe cases involve muscle paralysis, blurred vision, respiratory failure and death.
1. The Brain-Eating Amoeba
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living amoeba found in warm bodies of fresh water, soil and unchlorinated swimming pools. Known to cause primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), it is feared for its high mortality rate. Victims infected by PAM complain of a headache within the first two weeks of infection. As the amoeba continues to feed on nervous tissue, victims experience nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck. Confusion and hallucinations follow until the victim drops dead after another five days.
This is a global killer as PAM has been reported in India, Iran, Taiwan, New Zealand, the UK, Venezuela.
In nature, bigger size, more teeth, sharpest claws don’t necessarily make you the baddest. Humans should respect all creatures, great and small. You never know who is packing the biggest punch.