Sharks may star in the bloodiest blockbusters and spiders tend to monopolize the phobia department, but when you get down to the facts, neither of these creatures are even close to being the scariest to stalk the planet. Indeed, there are many ferocious beasts, both large and small, that are downright deadly. Here, the 10 most dangerous animals in the world.
10. CAPE BUFFALO
Cape buffalo, also called African buffalo, is the largest and most formidable of Africa’s wild bovids and a familiar sight to visitors of African parks and reserves. They are a relatively mild species when left alone, preferring to travel in massive herds to graze in early-morning and late-afternoon hours or to gather around watering holes to stay hydrated. However, if one (or its calf) is threatened or wounded, it becomes the incarnation of its nickname: black death. Reportedly responsible for killing more hunters on the continent than any other creature, these behemoths, which can grow up to nearly 6ft tall and weigh close to 2,000lb, circle and stalk their prey before charging at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. They’re also known to continue charging if they’re injured, and will not hesitate to attack moving vehicles. You don’t want to mess with those horns.
9. PUFFER FISH
Puffer fish also known as blow fish are often located in tropical seas around the globe. Known for containing tetrodotoxin a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish, the puffer fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate on the planet. Indeed, while wild encounters are certainly dangerous, the risk of death from a pufferfish increases when eating it in countries such as Japan, where it is considered a delicacy known as ‘fugu‘ and can only be prepared by trained, licensed chefs. Even then, accidental deaths from ingestion occur several times every year.The tetrodotoxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, and can cause deadening of the tongue and lips, dizziness, vomiting, arrhythmia, difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and, if left untreated, death.
Tarantulas comprise a group of large and often hairy spiders belonging to the family Theraphosidae. Currently, about 1,000 species have been identified. As horrifying as that sounds, most tarantulas are relatively harmless to humans. Only rarely does a tarantula bite cause serious harm or an allergic reaction that may actually become life-threatening to some. Tarantulas do have another potentially more serious defensive trick up their sleeve – their hair! Other than giving tarantulas an instantaneously recognizable outfit, these hairs serve a secondary function of defense. Many of the North and South American tarantulas have barbed wire-like, 1-mm long hairs on their belly which, when attacked or threatened, tarantulas can fling at their attackers. These hairs may be extremely irritating to human eyes and mucous membranes (our nose and mouth) and can lead to intense itching and the formation of hives (urticaria). Because of this, any airborne fragments of a tarantula can lead to severe irritation and allergic reactions, some even requiring emergency medical treatment.
7. CONE SNAIL
Found in the warm waters of the tropics (the Hawaii, Caribbean and Indonesia), these beautiful creatures, instantly recognizable for their highly prized, brown-and-white marbled shells, can be seen in shallow depths closer to shore, near coral reefs and rock formations and beneath sandy shoals. But do not dare to touch the gastropods, which can be up to six inches long: their concealed, harpoon-like ‘teeth’ contain a complex venom known as a conotoxin, making them one of the most poisonous species of snails. If you suffer the unlucky fate of becoming one of the handful of people ever stung, head to the hospital immediately, as there is no antivenom. The toxin stops nerve cells from communicating with one another, so the creature not only causes paralysis within moments, but, given its nickname of cigarette snail, affords you about enough time to smoke one before you die.
6. GOLDEN POISON DART FROG
The poison dart is the name of a large, diverse group of brightly colored frogs that live mostly in northern South America of which only a handful of species are particularly dangerous to humans. The most deadly, the golden poison dart, inhabits the small range of rainforests along Columbia’s Pacific coast, and grows to around two-inches long (roughly the size of a paper clip). Its poison, called batrachotoxin, is so potent that there’s enough in one frog to kill 10 grown men, and just two micro-grams is enough to kill a single individual. But what makes the amphibian especially dangerous is that its poison glands are located beneath its skin, meaning a mere touch will cause trouble. It’s little wonder the indigenous Emberá people have laced the tips of their blow darts used for hunting with the frog’s toxin for centuries. Sadly, deforestation has landed the frog on several endangered lists, but even if you do have a rare sighting when hiking, don’t go reaching for it.
5. BLACK MAMBA
Though species such as the boom-slang or king cobra are dangerous as a result of their poisons, the black mamba is especially deadly due to its speed. Found in the savannas and rocky areas of southern and eastern Africa, the species (which can grow up to 14ft long) is the fastest of all snakes, slithering at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour, which makes escaping one in remote areas that much more difficult. Thankfully, black mambas usually only strike when threatened – but when they do, they’ll bite repeatedly, delivering enough venom (a blend of neuro- and cardiotoxins) in a single bite to kill ten people. And if one doesn’t receive the correlative antivenin within 20 minutes, the bites are almost 100 per cent fatal.
4. BOX JELLYFISH
Often found floating (or moving at speeds close to five miles per hour) in the Indo-Pacific waters north of Australia, these transparent, nearly invisible invertebrates are considered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be the most venomous marine animal in the world. Their namesake cubic frames contain up to 15 tentacles at the corners, with each growing as long as 10ft, all lined with thousands of stinging cells – known as nematocysts – which contain toxins that simultaneously attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. While antivenins do exist, the poison is so powerful that many of the hundreds of reported victims each year go into shock, drowning or dying of heart failure before reaching shore. Even if you are lucky enough to make it to the hospital and receive the antidote, survivors can sometimes experience considerable pain for weeks afterwards and bear nasty scars from the creature’s tentacles.
Florida’s alligators may be scary, but they have nothing on their cousins, the fearsome crocodiles, which are more short-tempered, easily provoked and aggressive towards anything that crosses their paths. Of all the species in the world, the largest – and most dangerous – is the saltwater crocodile, which inhabits the Indo-Pacific region ranging from parts of India and Vietnam all the way to northern Australia. These ferocious killers can grow up to 23ft in length and weigh more than 2,000lb, plus they are known to kill hundreds each year (in fact, the entire crocodile population is responsible for more annual human fatalities than sharks). Saltwater crocodiles are especially deadly as they’re excellent swimmers in both salt and freshwater (yes, the name is confusing), and can strike quickly with a bite delivering 3,700lb per square inch of pressure, rivalling that of the tyrannosaurus rex. If that’s not enough to scare you, let’s put it in perspective: humans chomp into a well-done steak at around 200lb per square inch of pressure, a mere five per cent of the strength of a saltie’s jaw.
Reef Stone-fishes are extremely well camouflaged, looking like an encrusted rock or lump of coral. Individuals are usually brown or grey and may have patches of yellow, orange or red.The Reef Stone-fish has thirteen stout dorsal fin spines which can inject an extremely poisonous venom.The Reef Stone-fish is the most venomous fish in the world. It has thirteen stout spines in the dorsal fin which can inject a highly toxic venom. The venom causes intense pain and is believed to have killed many Pacific and Indian Ocean islanders.
Surprised? We’re animals, too, after all. And seeing as we’ve been killing each other for 10,000 years, with the total deaths resulting from war alone estimated at between 150 million and one billion, it’s a no-brainer that we top the list. Though we are said to be living in the most peaceful period now than at any other time in our history, we still assault each other with incredibly high rates of senseless brutality, from gun violence in cities such as Munich and Florida’s Fort Lauderdale to terrorist attacks around the globe. We’re dangerous to other animals, too – think global warming and the destruction of forests and coral reefs. Given the threat we pose to countless other creatures – and the fact that we often act irrationally and have the capacity to annihilate our entire planet with a host of horrifying weapons – we are easily number one on the list of the most dangerous animals in the world.