Imagine reaching into a grocery bag to unload freshly bought organic bananas - only to discover a giant, hairy spider attached to them, which turns out to be the Brazilian wandering spider, often considered the world's deadliest venomous spider.
An attack from this spider can kill you within 2 hours, and there's no antidote in sight for this Brazilian beast in your country. To make matters worse, there's an egg sac attached to the bananas as well, filled with hundreds of baby spiders just waiting to be released.
This true story, that happened to a family in England, was reported just last year. The fearsome spider involved in the story is just one of the awe-inspiring, dangerous creatures that this article profiles; all having the special distinction of having some of the deadliest venoms on earth. Luckily, most of these creatures are unlikely to turn up in your neck of the woods.
Venomous creatures mustn't be confused with poisonous specimens, which simply need to be touched or eaten to emit their toxins, such as the very well known, brightly coloured golden poison dart frog, or the notorious puffer fish.
A creature with venom, on the other hand, is actually looking to inject its victim with its toxin through a bite, barb, or sting. While venom has the main purpose of killing or stunning prey - or as a highly effective defence mechanism when its owner is threatened - it is still safe to say that any human getting in the way of one of these guys is going to have a pretty bad day.
To determine which specific creature has "the deadliest venom of all" is no easy task, with so many variables to consider. Some snakes have the most toxic venom, for example, but due to remote habitats, are responsible for very few deaths. A creature with a much milder venom can be responsible for hundreds of annual deaths simply because of more frequent contact with humans, and an absence of anti-venoms in certain regions.
Read on to learn more about various species, from spiders to snakes, that collectively, have some of the most bad-ass toxic venoms on the planet.
Just be warned; after reading this, you may just find yourself thinking twice about taking that long awaited dream jungle safari, and bumping into Jaws may no longer be your number one fear about swimming in the ocean...
10 Brazilian Wandering Spider
The Brazilian wandering spider is an arachnophobic's nightmare. This highly aggressive fella pretty well summarizes everything a person could fear about spiders. It's big, it's brown, it's hairy, it likes to go into houses and hang around in clothing and shoes. And, if you make it mad, it's going to bite you - over and over again.
Living in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Argentina, and having a body and leg-spread size of five inches, this big bugger has a bite that packs the most neurotoxic venom of any living spider.
Hundreds of spider bites are reported annually from this temperamental spider, whose bite can kill within 2 hours - although death is unlikely, thanks to a widely available antivenom within Brazil.
It is doubtful that this brought any reassurance to the British family who, just last year, discovered one of these hairy monsters attached to a bunch of bananas purchased at a well known grocery store chain. Shocked by the sight of the beast, the father of the household reportedly dropped the bananas into a fruit bowl, trapping the spider's leg in the process. As the family freaked out, the spider was reported to have gnawed its own leg off--and then disappeared, sending the family into further panic.
The spider was eventually found and trapped by a third party--along with an egg sac also found underneath the banana bunch, estimated to be holding hundreds of baby spiders.
Shockingly, this was just one of several such discoveries British shoppers of bananas stumbled upon in the last year. The most recent of them happened this month, when a mother handing her 6-year-old daughter a banana for a snack found a huge egg sac about to hatch with hundreds of babies inside. Luckily all spiders and egg sacs in these British cases were found and contained, with no dangerous incidents reported.
Experts have pointed to the organic food trend, in which such spiders - even these big, lethal ones - now happily avoid being sprayed and killed before export. Still thinking of buying organic?
On a separate note of interest , this spider's venom has the odd potential of causing painful unwanted erections in men lasting up to four hours; its venom is being researched for its potential use in erectile dysfunction.
9 Black Mamba
If you bump into one of these guys on a hike then proceed with caution.
The black mamba is Africa's longest venomous snake, reaching up to 14 feet. It's also the world's fastest land snake. It's a nervous creature that will usually try to flee when feeling threatened. When cornered, however, it will rise up off the ground, hissing and flaring its neck like a cobra.
At this point, you may notice the blue black colour of the inside of its angry mouth, which is the real reason behind the snake's name rather than the olive colour of its skin. The sight of that gaping black mouth means you've pissed it off, and that should hopefully be enough to send you packing.
Anyone crazy enough to keep coming at the mamba at this point is going to get attacked aggressively by repeated strikes filled with large volumes of highly toxic venom.
In earlier times, a human victim would have absolutely no chance of surviving a mamba bite. It can kill within 20 minutes.
Luckily, an antivenom does exist today; but with the mamba living in rural regions well away from any hospitals or medications, people still die every year from this snake's lethal bite.
8 Blue Ringed Octopus
The blue ringed octopus is such a beautiful, delicate creature that it's considered a treasure subject by underwater photographers and naturalists alike. Measuring only 8 centimetres in diameter, with tentacles fully extended, this tiny octopus can be found in tidal pools and coral reefs off the coast of Australia and Japan, and is usually considered to be quite docile.
But you really don't want to bug this little cephalopod; most cases of bites are reported from people finding the cute little octopus under a shell or a rock in a tidal pool, and then handling it, fooled by its gentle nature.
It's tempting to touch, as this little guy is beautiful. It has rings flaring into stunning shades of electric neon blue; but this interchangeable, mesmerizing state is often a warning sign that he is agitated.
Just one bite from a blue ringed octopus can kill an adult human within minutes. The venom found within the salivary glands and mouth of this octopus are filled with tetrodotoxin, the same neurotoxin found in the highly poisonous pufferfish; this type of toxin in the human body can lead to paralysis of the muscles, including the muscles that control breathing, which eventually leads to asphyxiation and death.
Although a bite can be survived with immediate CPR and then being placed on a ventilator until the toxin has a chance to work itself out of the body (around 24 hours), any serious exposure to the venom means a sure death as there is no antivenin in existence for this species.
7 Box Jellyfish
If you're swimming somewhere off the coast of Australia and happen to catch a glimpse of this white blob with long, delicate tentacles making its way towards you, you'd better swim like the dickens.
The Australian Box jellyfish, also known as the sea wasp, is legendary for the fear it evokes in swimmers everywhere. It has earned notoriety as one of the world's deadliest creatures. Named for the boxy-shape of its bell, and found mainly off the coast of Northern Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific, this jellyfish has fifteen tentacles that can reach 3 metres in length, each one containing 5,000 nasty stinging cells.
With toxic venom that attacks the heart, nervous system, and skin cells, a sting from a box jellyfish's tentacles can be so agonizingly painful to a person, that a victim will often go into shock and die by drowning or from heart failure--before there's ever time to receive medical help. Surviving is no piece of cake either, with reports of victims experiencing pain for weeks after after an attack-- not to mention nasty scars from those crazy tentacles.
So unless you're a sea turtle - which are, amazingly, unaffected by the sting of the box jellyfish, and regularly chow down on the blobs for a meal - the rule of thumb is, steer clear of this incredibly dangerous ocean dweller.
The notorious stonefish strikes fear into the hearts of every ocean swimmer by lurking, so well-camouflaged, amid rocks or buried beneath sand. Sometimes it even lurks out of the water for up to 24 hours, just waiting to be stepped on. In fact, many stings have occurred from victims simply walking along the beach.
The stonefish is found within coastal regions of Australian waters, and is possibly the most venomous fish in existence. It hides very effectively amid rocks or buried beneath the sand, so as to catch small fish by applying pressure that literally swoops the unsuspecting creatures into the camouflaged monster's waiting mouth.
The highly toxic venom, contained within 13 spikes along the fish's back, serves this stonefish purely as a defence mechanism. Whatever touches these spikes is going to get stabbed with an amount of venom dependant on the pressure applied to the fish.
That's why a human stepping full weight onto this fish can be a big problem.
The sting of a stonefish is reported to be excruciatingly painful, and depending how much venom has been injected, a person can die within 2 hours of the sting. An antivenin does exist, and application of hot water to the sight of the sting is known to help kill off the venom while a victim might be awaiting administering of the antivenin.
The aborigines clearly know about heat's ability to kill off the toxic aspect of the fish; they reportedly enjoy sometimes killing the fish by smashing it against a rock ceremoniously and then cooking it for supper, having learned over time that the heat from the fire safely kills off all traces of toxins. Why not? The Japanese consider the highly poisonous puffer fish a delicacy, after all; something about the taste of these toxic fish must clearly be worth the risk!
5 Indian Red Scorpion
Scorpions can't miss out on this party. As the first predators to walk on land, these venomous arachnids have been around forever, long outlasting the dinosaurs. It's no small wonder, given the notorious killing instrument and defence mechanism the scorpion packs in the form of a highly evolved, wicked stinger at the top of its curled tail.
The top spot for deadliest scorpion is arguably the Indian red scorpion. Native to India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, this tiny scorpion is typically no bigger than an eraser. But this is one small package posing a major danger to anyone crossing its path.
The venom contained within the stinger is packed with a neurotoxin that can lead to irregularities in the heart, as well as high blood pressure. This is often a deadly combination in the human body. Once stung, a human victim can die quickly without immediate medical attention. An antivenin does exist, keeping deaths in adults quite low.
This scorpion poses much more of a threat to children, who are small enough to become envenomed more quickly, and who often interrupt the scorpions in their daytime hiding spots. Kids make themselves further vulnerable to a sting by walking around barefoot in the particular countries this scorpion calls home.
Several children have been killed, almost on an annual basis, by the Indian red scorpion.
4 Inland Taipan
The inland taipan of Australia is shown above being "milked" for venom research. It holds the title for the most venomous snake in the world, having the most toxic venom of any snake, and injecting the most venom when it bites.
Just one bite from this snake, also nicknamed the "fierce snake", is enough venom to kill 100 fully grown men. So how is it that this slithery, brown creature, that can measure up to 8 feet in length, is not wiping out the entire population of Australia?
While having the deadliest venom on the planet, the inland taipan can't be called the world's "deadliest snake," as it simply doesn't have the exposure to human beings to give it that title. The inland taipan is in fact quite docile by nature, and being reclusive, prefers to stay out of sight. Living in remote locations, furthermore, this snake hardly ever has any contact with human beings at all.
If it's feeling threatened, however, watch out; this snake will indeed strike, often repeatedly, and with a speed and accuracy that is not to be messed with. A bite by one of these snakes can kill a man within 30-45 minutes due the accuracy of its bite and the high concentration of neurotoxin within its powerful venom.
An anti-venom does exist, however, and has been used successfully to treat bites on some of those crazy snake handlers out there, called herpetologists, who think it's a great idea to pick up creatures with the most toxic venoms on earth!
Still, it's a good thing herpetologists exist; otherwise who in his right mind would volunteer to "milk" an inland taipan for research, as seen in the above photo!
3 Geographic Cone Snail
Who would have thought that a dainty looking snail, smaller than a teacup and with a beautiful shell prized by collectors, could have enough toxic venom to paralyze and kill an adult human within minutes?
The geographic cone snail is mainly native to coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific waters. It attacks its victim with a harpoon like tooth that hurtles out at the unsuspecting passerby, injecting a venom made up of a powerful, complex cocktail of hundreds of toxins.
This slow-moving guy needs a venom this strong in order to stop a victim dead in its tracks; otherwise by the time the fish dies, the poor snail would never get to it in time to claim his lunch.
Instantly paralyzing and deadly to fish, this snail is also responsible for many human deaths, with no antivenin in existence.
Fascinatingly, some of the proteins found within this snail's toxin cocktail, when isolated, have the potential to target human pain receptors, and is thought to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Research to examine this protein's potential as a pain relief drug is ongoing.
Drug dealers everywhere must be rubbing their hands together at the future prospects of "cone snail street-peddling".
2 Coastal Taipan Snake
The coastal taipan's s venom may not be as strong as his cousin's (the inland taipan, examined earlier), but for all of the deaths this snake has caused, he well makes up for it; in any case, his venom isn't too shabby either, ranked as the third most toxic land snake venom known to man.
Rather than living out in the remote wilderness like his cousin, the coastal taipan makes his home all through northern and eastern Australia among sandy, grassy beach dunes and forests. The 14 foot snake is known to be particularly fond of sugar cane fields; in other words, all places where unsuspecting humans might come across his path.
And come across his path they do; the coastal taipan has been responsible for dozens of deaths over the years and considered by many to be the deadliest snake on the planet as a result. In recent years, however, with the introduction of an antivenin, deaths have been dramatically reduced.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, however, will render you out of luck. A ferocious strike from this guy's fangs can kill a person within 30 minutes.
1 Assassin Caterpillar
Like a lion dressed in sheep's clothing, don't let the cuddly appearance of this tiny caterpillar fool you; for underneath its delicate beauty hides a truly vile and dangerous beast.
The assassin caterpillar, or the Giant Silkworm Moth caterpillar, can be found mainly in Southern Brazil, where it blends in perfectly with the trees and brush of the country's jungles and wilderness.
You don't want to come across one of these guys, that come packed with a venom containing hemotoxin. This truly nasty toxin destroys red blood cells, causes organ and tissue degeneration, and disrupts the clotting process, thereby causing internal bleeding to spread throughout the entire body. A mishandling of this creature can therefore cause the loss of a limb. Without quick treatment, even death from eventual brain compression as the progressive hemorrhage syndrome takes its toll.
Horrifically, victims of hemotoxin have even been reported to bleed out from every orifice.
Although placid enough in appearance and behaviour, if eaten by a predator or handled by a poor, unsuspecting human, this nasty little creature will respond by injecting its victim with the highly damaging venom from tiny spines on its back, often with several of these hair-like spikes stinging a victim at once, causing maximal venom exposure.
This spiky little beastie has been responsible for at least 500 recorded human deaths, most of them adults who came across the critter by accident. As a result of such a high concentration of deaths in recent years for the region, and fears of an increasing problem with the caterpillar, Brazilian government officials were sparked into action trying to quickly develop an antivenin, which is now available, thankfully.
That's one tiny creature that packs a seriously diabolical punch!