Top of the Food Chain? Top 10 Animals That You May Not Know Can Kill You

Mankind has managed to rule the planet successfully for the last few hundred thousand years or so. But it's best that we homo sapiens don't let our success go to our heads. If we are taken out of our urban, air-conditioned, latte-sipping environment and plucked down in front of one of many different animals that roam the earth and seas, we would undoubtedly be reduced to a pile of cracked bones and bloody entrails.

You can name a few of these man-killing creatures easily: bears, lions, and sharks often come to mind. And if you pit a person against a cobra, stingray, or black widow spider, he or she could very likely lose that death match as well.

But no matter how lengthy your list is of dangerous animals, it's undoubtedly incomplete. And chances are, not one of these ten living things appear anywhere in your tally - probably because we arrogant humans tend to judge books by their covers in the animal kingdom. That said, if any of us were to happen upon one of these fellow inhabitants of our planet and assume that we are superior to them, we would quite likely only make that mistake once.

So the next time you're feeling all "top-of-the-food-chain" high and mighty, remember these animals that could possibly dance on your grave. (Figuratively speaking, of course - none of them are good dancers.)

10 Bottlenose Dolphin

That's right - if you've been on a tropical vacation, you may have swum alongside these potentially nasty creatures. Though there's only been one reported human death at the flippers of a bottlenose dolphin (and the guy was allegedly drunk and harassing it), they do reportedly attack humans about as often as sharks do (like one does here). One theory states that girls and women are more likely to be targeted because of the hormones they give off. In any case, these mammals do have a long history of attacking, toying with, and brutally murdering porpoises for seemingly no porpoise purpose at all. People forget that bottlenose dolphins can grow up to 14 feet long and weigh over half a ton. Meet an angry one in the water, and you may be wishing you had a tuna net handy.

9 Spotted Hyena

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If hyenas were humans, they would resemble the short-but-annoying douchebag who talks trash when he's far away from you but bolts whenever he feels threatened. However, that assessment isn't entirely accurate. When the spotted hyena is with his buddies, the pack has been known to attack and even hunt humans - especially at night. Each spotted hyena can be as big as a large dog; and while they prefer already-expired fare (like people do), they will go after live prey if food is scarce or if they feel threatened. And hyenas do tend to be more aggressive during disease outbreaks and wars - which tend to be common in their African homeland.

8 Blue-ringed Octopus

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If you do any nighttime diving or snorkeling in the western Pacific Ocean, you may encounter one of these petite-yet-deadly creatures. These shallow water cephalopods can have beige- and brown-patched bodies that are as small as a golf ball. But when they get agitated, these "rings" glow a bright blue. And if these octopi bite you, the venom will fully paralyze you and snuff out your life within a matter of minutes. There's no antivenom - although if you were artificially respirated for up to 24 hours beginning immediately after the bite, you might possibly survive. Each blue ringed octopus holds enough of this deadly venom to kill more than two dozen adults. Among artists, blue is known as "the warmest color," but they've probably never seen a blue-ringed octopus (outside of a serious drug trip, anyway).

7 Cape Buffalo

It's a black cow with horns. No big deal, right? Think again. Cape buffaloes are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal. These beasts have never been domesticated, and they sport a very ornery disposition - which is why the locals have given it nicknames like "the widowmaker" and "black death." Unbelievably, some game hunters think it's a hoot to try and hunt a cape buffalo. But when a six-foot tall, 3/4-ton animal is running at you at 35 miles per hour, and your ideal shooting distance is between 20 and 60 yards, you'd better pray that you're a good shot. Because those horns aren't just for tickling you.

6 Leopard

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When you think of feline predators, you naturally gravitate toward mighty lions, fierce tigers, or stealthy panthers. But ignore the smallest "big cat" at your own peril, especially since leopards have a history of hunting two-legged prey that literally goes back millions of years. They only grow to between 130 and 165 pounds, but they're thought to be more agile (and even more cunning) than their larger kitty counterparts. But don't underestimate their muscle; leopards are strong enough to drag their kills up into a tree in order to dine in solitude. In the early 20th century, a few of them were responsible for hundreds of human deaths in remote Asian areas. In short, leopards are a little like women: the smallest ones are usually the most dangerous.

5 Leopard Seal

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Yes, it's gotta be dangerous since it has "leopard" in its name. While humans rule six of the seven continents, the leopard seal sits atop the food chain in Antarctica with an iron (if stubby) limb. Its favorite dish is penguins or fish, but these massive mammals will feast on red meat if given the chance. In 2003, a leopard seal attacked a snorkeling marine biologist who wound up dying from drowning. These spotted creatures can grow up to ten feet long and weigh well over a half ton, and they have exceptionally long teeth and powerful jaws. So don't think for a second that these "cute" leopard seals will welcome your attention. Unless they're hungry.

4 Cone Snail

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If you avoid the blue-ringed octopus while diving in Pacific waters, you can still meet your maker if you're a little too curious. While the cone snail certainly won't hunt you down, it may strike if you decide to pick it up and add it to your shell collection. There are more than 600 species of cone snail in the world, and they range in size from one to nine inches in length. But they all have the same M.O.: wait till their enemy gets close, then extend a proboscis from its shell and jab the harpoonish tip into the prey (or diver). The devastating conotoxin is powerful enough to stop your body's cells from communicating with each other and completely paralyze you within minutes - which can be a problem if you're far below the ocean's surface and/or away from a boat or land. One of the cone snail's nicknames is the "cigarette" snail, because you have just enough time to smoke a cigarette before you die (kinda like a firing squad, right?).

3 Cassowary

It's a funny-looking bird with a funny name, so how could it be hazardous to your health? It looks like a black-feathered ostrich with a multicolored neck and a wedge of bone on its head. Believe it or not, the cassowary is sometimes called the world's most dangerous bird. When erect, they stand as tall as a man and can run faster than 30 miles an hour. But in addition to the hornlike-casque on their noggin, they have long, sharp claws that can cut flesh fairly easily. The good news is that there are only about 1,500 of these birds left in the rain forests of Australia and New Guinea, and that they are generally skittish around humans. However, cassowaries have been known to wander into picnic areas looking for food. And although the last confirmed cassowary-caused human death occurred in 1926, these creatures can do some damage if you startle or try to pet them. (Fun fact: during mating season, a female cassowary can engage with up to three males at one time. Harlots.)

2 Slow Loris

Look at this guy. He's a furry, wide-eyed bundle of cuteness (kinda like an Ewok), so how can he hurt anybody? Check this out: slow lorises (not "lorii") are one of the few poisonous mammals on earth. Even though they're only between eight and 15 inches tall, they have sharp teeth which are capable of delivering a painful bite. But more importantly, every slow loris has a gland on the ventral side of its elbow (in humans, it's the part of the arm where the needle goes when you give blood) that secretes a toxin. If this toxin even touches human skin, the victim can go into anaphylactic shock and die. That said, such an outcome is rare and doesn't necessarily affect everyone that severely. But it's still wise to give every slow loris some "elbow room."

1 Giant Anteater

No way! This fuzzy, slow-moving, long-nosed animal that sleeps 15 hours a day can kill a human? It can - and has. That's because the giant anteater has sharp, four-inch long claws that can slice open human flash easily. And since these creatures can weigh as much as 140 pounds and grow up to a nose-to-tail length of seven feet, they're bulky enough to scrap with anything. In fact, giant anteaters have been known to subdue even a jaguar or puma that threatens their livelihood. And there have been recorded instances of human deaths by giant anteaters. The most recent victims include a 19-year old zookeeper in Argentina and a 43-year old man in Suriname who reportedly tried to chase it down and kill it. As an aside, it's not difficult to outrun a giant anteater, since it has an average speed of about 46 feet per minute - or a little over one-half mile per hour.

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