We are all aware of the food chain. We all know that big kitty cats in the jungle eat majestic deer as they graze for food on the Serengeti. It is an undeniable fact of life that some animals have to kill other animals for sustenance. Otherwise, their respective various ecosystems go haywire. Gazelles will overpopulate the Serengeti and eat all of the vegetation, leaving little for other herbivores. Changes in the vegetation can also increase the likelihood of wildfires. Bacteria in the soil changes, parasites can go rampant, infectious diseases can get out of control. There are unknown and uncountable ways in which an ecosystem can fall apart with the removal of the top of the food chain. Everyone does their part from the great white shark to the fruit bat to the mosquito (house cats don’t seem to do much, though). All this considered, though, some animals do it with a little more grace than others.
It is hard to remember that animals are not human beings with human emotions, human sympathy, and human respect. They are not people, they are finely-tuned functions of evolution that fit perfectly into their slot in the circle of life. And, yet, sometimes those functions are more than a little bit disturbing. Sometimes, wild killers take on chilling behavior for nothing more than a quick bite to eat. Sometimes, animals are ruthless sociopaths with no conscience or remorse for abhorrent behavior.
17. Short-Tailed Shrew – The Rodent One
This guy is straight out of the movie Se7en. When a shrew catches an insect, worm or sometimes mouse, it doesn’t kill it right away. It doesn’t even kill it at all. This creepy little rodent secretes a venom from its lower jaw that paralyzes its prey. So far, this doesn’t seem so unreasonable. There are plenty of other animals that debilitate their intended dinner with venom. The purpose of this particular immobilization, however, isn’t to make it an easy kill. Instead, the short-tailed shrew uses the chemical to create a sort of living snack. The shrew can snack on its live victim for up to a week. Eventually, the animal’s physical injuries finally do it in. There are worse ways to go, but it’s a pretty short list. All that, and looks, too.
16. Saltwater Crocodile – You’re Not Going Anywhere
This damp killing machine sits at the very top of its respective food chain. Weighing in at up to 4,400 lbs, it is the largest apex predator that walks on land. That should be enough to make you give him all the respect he needs… and distance, too. In case it isn’t, though, consider the bite force. It happens to be the highest ever recorded at 3,700 lbs. Pretty scary, right? It gets worse.
Their teeth are not designed to rip flesh like nearly all predators. Instead, they are designed more like a bear trap. Their function is to keep you still, right there in the croc’s mouth. Once they have you hooked, they take you underwater and violently spin you in disorienting barrel rolls until you eventually drown. Not an ideal way to go.
15. Grizzly Bear – No Thanks
With huge dimensions and massive strength, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find the grizzly bear on our list. If you’ve seen The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, you can approximate why. An adult male can reach over 3 feet at the shoulder, 6.5 feet in length and up to 400 lbs. You will lose this fight. But, as the title of this article suggests, we aren’t exploring mere killing capability. What really gets the grizzly on our list is its table manners. After disabling its meal, the enormous bear has been known to start eating before the animal is actually dead and it does so without the courtesy of administering a local anesthetic as in the case of the shrew.
14. The Pitcher Plant – It Puts The Lotion In The Basket
You are probably wondering how a plant ended up on this list. You will see. The pitcher is a tropical cup-shaped plant that grows in Southeast Asia, India, Madagascar and Australia. Producing nectar and bright colors, like a tropical lemonade stand, the vine lures insects. Upon landing, they find a very slick surface which slides them right into a liquid at the bottom of the cup where bacteria and enzymes break down the meal, making it easier for the plant to absorb the nutrients. Insect larvae living inside the plant also feed on the carcass scraps, further nourishing the pitcher plant with its excrement. So, next time you see a couple of adorable kids with brightly-colored posters and promises of refreshing lemonade, remember it may be a trap.
13. The Margay – Psych!
Look at those sadistic eyes; definitely up to no good. The Margay is a small wild cat native to Central and South America. Weighing in at a mere 5.5-8.5 lbs, the margay must get creative and rely on other talents for hunting. And it has a good one. This trickster has mastered the art of mimicry, not unlike the parrot. However, this little pussy cat doesn’t say cute things like “polly-want-a-cracker.” No, this vocal chameleon has honed the distress sounds of a baby tamarin monkey. Do you see where this is going?
The margay hides in the bushes and mimics a hurt tamarin baby. When help arrives, she springs into action and enjoys a nice, probably-guilt-free lunch. Imagine the very first margay that successfully tried that. Sometimes evolution is nothing but frightening.
12. The Golden Eagle – I Can Fly; Can You?
The national bird of Mexico is a powerful hunter, preying mostly on rodents and fish. Its wingspan can get up to 7.5 feet in diameter, making them the country’s largest bird of prey. Diving at speeds of up to 150 mph to attack, it devastates its victims before they know what hit them… usually. These predators have also been known, however, to take an unconventional approach to hunting. Despite the bird’s large size, even it cannot abscond with a whole mountain goat. Instead, she grabs ahold of a leg and drags it off of a cliff where it plummets to its death. It’s more like as if it is trying to make it look like an accident than expert hunting. This is incredibly clever thinking for something related to a dumb chicken.
11. Least Weasel – Napoleon Vampires
You’re right, he does look a lot like your friend Shiloh’s ferret. This lil’ guy is a carnivora. This is not to be confused with a carnivore, which simply means that it eats primarily meat. Carnivora is a very diverse order in the animal kingdom categorized by having teeth and claws designed to catch prey. Dogs, cats, bears and otters are all carnivora. The elephant seal is the largest and the least weasel is the smallest. The least weasel hunts quite differently than his carnivora brethren, however. Rather than chasing and killing, the least weasel lies in wait until its victim gets close enough. Once within reach, the weasel leaps out either latching onto the neck of its prey and draining blood from the jugular vein, or dislocates the cervical vertebrae with a tactful bite at the base of the skull. If there is plenty of food around, the weasel will only eat a small bit of the carcass, which usually turns out to be the brain. I guess that’s what you get for wandering too close to a pile of sticks.
10. The Northern Goshawk – This Is My House
This evil-looking bird of prey is nothing if not fearless, especially if it thinks you might be a threat to its territory. And by you, that means you too, human beings. The northern goshawk is found mainly in North America, Europe, and Northern Asia. With a 4-foot wingspan and redish-orange eyes, it more than just looks menacing. She will absolutely mess you up. Diving at devastating speeds, she delivers swooping blows to the head. She tears at the scalp with razor-like talons and, just like our grizzly friend, she too will often begin eating before her prey perishes. As seen in the above photo, the goshawk pins ducks down with one foot while ripping at the flesh with her beak as it fights for its life.
9. Gray Wolf – The Call Of The Wild
If you’ve ever fantasized about gaining the loyalty of a wild wolf, the two of you traversing the tundra in unwavering bond— give it up. Even if you do strike a friendship, it is probably not going to last long. Like the chimps of Gombe, gray wolves are pack hunters. They have been known to send a “lone” wolf off to make friends with a domestic dog, playing and frolicking. Before long, the wolf leads the unsuspecting new pal into the woods where his friends swarm, surrounding the dog. Gray wolves attack by latching onto the face or snout, ripping chunks of flesh right off. The prey eventually bleeds to death, but not before the wolves begin feeding. And that’s where your little teacup chihuahua came from.
8. Hanuman Langurs – Let’s Play With My Balls Instead
Hanuman langurs— just say it a couple of times. It’s fun. They are ‘old world’ monkeys which also include macaques and baboons. They live in packs, led by a single alpha male, typically in mountainous, rain forest and savanna terrains. Just as in all groups with similar structures, there is bound to be a struggle for power. Immediately following an overthrow, the usurper’s first order of action is to exterminate all of the infants in the pack for two reasons. First, by eliminating the former boss’ offspring, the new leader’s young now have less competition for resources. It would be like if you got rid of the other kids at daycare so your precious genius has more toys to play with. Secondly, without the need to lactate, having recently been relieved of her young, the female langur begins to ovulate much quicker, expediting the advent of papa’s new family.
7. Lions – I Like Your Family Better
Lions also practice infanticide. However, unlike the langurs, lions live in small groups that work together to take over neighboring prides. They’re like menacing marauders, window shopping for new family members. When a group is able to absorb a neighboring pride, the alpha male will kill off anything under 9 months old. A major difference between lions and langurs is that the lioness will fiercely defend her cubs. The female langur, on the other hand, accepts their fate a little more willingly. Moreover, the female lion only gives birth once every two years, which is roughly the biological window of virility in males. So, if you have that calling to be a father, that’s a lot of pressure to speed up the ovulation.
6. Chimpanzees – Mostly Vegetarian
Our primate cousins were once thought to be completely vegetarian, as they rely mainly on nuts and fruits. They do, however, branch out every now and again to get nutrients from insects and even hunt for meat. And when meat is on the menu, it’s dinner and a show.
Chimps hunt other monkeys for meat, and they do it as a pack. Far more than any other prey, chimpanzees go after the red colabus monkey in Gombe, Africa. And their hunting method appears to be as much for social effect as for sustenance. While adolescent and adult males are responsible for 90% of the kills, there is a good deal of cooperation as in most pack hunters. There are a few noteworthy bits that separate chimps from the rest. For one, most hunts result in a single kill of a small monkey; certainly not enough to feed an entire pack. Secondly, it seems to be almost like trophy hunting. The pack watches as the male closes the deal. Once the kill is made, the male parades the carcass around the group, seemingly in celebration. So, like us.
5. Mice – Et Tu, Mickey?
Male mice exhibit downright dissociative behavior. After fertilizing a female, males cannot stand the thought of little baby mice even existing. Their solution? They go after, and kill, any mouse pups they come across. This lasts for almost exactly three weeks. After that, they become extremely paternal. They help out around the house, don’t go out too much with the guys, and even help raise their youngsters. After two months, though, there is another dramatic shift in behavior. It’s right back to kill-all-children mode. It is unlikely a coincidence that the gestation period of mice is, you guessed it: three weeks. And how long do you think the little tikes hang out in the nest? That’s right, two months. Thanks, dad!
4. Kangaroos – Extreme Harassment
You may have seen a photo of a male kangaroo seemingly mourning the death of his mate. Your aunt Sandy posted it on her Facebook wall with a caption like, “Don’t tell me animals don’t have souls.” A veterinary pathologist at the University of Sydney would eventually break aunt Sandy’s heart when he told us the truth. The male, more than likely, accidentally killed her while mating. Male kangaroos routinely get extremely violent during struggles with rival males. They are quite the competitive species when it comes to mating. Males will often battle for extended bloody bouts for the favor of a female. The poor girl got caught in the middle of a silly pissing contest and the victor, not willing to let go of his prize, attempted to mate with her anyway. Kind of a ‘Lenny and the rabbits’ situation.
3. Orca Whales – Seal Batting
You may have seen the famously disturbing video of an orca punting its lunch 80 feet in the air seemingly for pure sport. Although it seems like these whales enjoy toying with seals before eating them, there appears to be a more sensible reason for the torture. Scientists believe there may be a few reasons for their behavior. First of all, seals have sharp teeth and claws that could cause serious harm to orcas during consumption… unless they are unconscious, of course. It’s kind of like how we peel shrimp before gorging ourselves at the high school reunion. Another theory claims that they do this to loosen the seals’ skin, which they do not eat. You know… kind of like how we peel shrimp before gorging ourselves at the Vegas buffet. A third theory states that, by disabling the seals, orcas teach their young how to hunt, making the prey easier to catch; not unlike how you might peel shrimp for your niece before she gorges herself at your cousin’s wedding.
2. Orca Whales – Yeah, Orcas Again!
So, we came up with some scientific reasons explaining seemingly sociopathic behavior. This one is a little harder to explain away, and just seems malicious. Orcas are sometimes known to prey on sperm and grey whales, which they do by forming hunting packs that chase down a mother with her calf. After a long chase, the exhausted mother can no longer sustain her pace. She tries to keep her calf safe by raising it out of the water on her back. The orcas take turns ramming her and her calf, causing internal damage. Finally, they wedge themselves between mother and child and force the calf underwater to drown it. It is quite disturbing to imagine this happening to a mother doing some routine grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon. Great teamwork, orcas.
1. Humans – Don’t Act Surprised
Sociopathy is very uniquely human. We are analyzing every behavior in this list using humanity as a measure. You see the margay luring concerned parents into the bush and see Ted Bundy manipulating young women or Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Lions cooperating to take over another pride remind you of The Purge. The saltwater crocodile is like a trap right out of the Saw movies. We are not going to get up on a soap box here and make a big social statement. But, we are examining these behaviors through the lens of mental health, or lack thereof. We are imposing human morality on these evolutionary phenomena. Don’t delude yourself, we are the most demented ones out there.