30 Animals You Don’t Want to Mess With
Arachnophobia. Entomophobia. Ophidiophobia. If you didn’t have a fear of spiders, insects or snakes before, you will after learning they’re some of the most dangerous animals on the planet. Some are isolated, like Komodo dragons, which are found only in Indonesia. But others, like the bull shark, are much more widespread. Either way, these animals represent the very deadliest that Mother Nature has to offer.
Weighing anywhere from 600 pounds to well over a ton, the cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous species on the African continent. Their status at the very top of the food chain means they have few natural enemies, and these unpredictable animals are known to kill or maim hundreds of people every year.
Box jellyfish are beautiful to look at, with their translucent bodies and wispy tentacles gliding through the water. Out of the dozens of species of box jellyfish known to man, most won’t harm you if they brush up against you in the water, but there are several whose venom is potent enough to make you sick (or even kill you).
Wait a minute, you’re saying snails are dangerous? Well, not all of them; your average garden variety snail is as harmless as a butterfly. We’re talking cone snails, which refers to a group of venomous, carnivorous and predatory tropical marine snails (also known as gastropods) that come in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors.
Found mostly in tropical waters, pufferfish have developed a unique natural defense that helps compensate for how slow they are in the water – they’re highly toxic. The level of toxicity can vary from species to species, and even where the poison is held can differ. Scientists have found venom in the liver, ovaries and even in the skin itself of certain puffers.
Golden Poison Frog
These brightly colored frogs may look all innocent just hanging out in tropical rainforests, but their skin is covered in a highly toxic poison that deadens its victims' nerves and can lead to heart failure and death. It’s their natural defense mechanism for an environment in which they’re at the lower end of the food chain.
There’s a reason assassin Beatrix Kiddo, played by Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino’s bloody revenge film Kill Bill, goes by the code name “Black Mamba;” she’s the deadliest hitwoman on the team. The black mamba, which is native to sub-Saharan Africa, is incredibly lethal, second only to the king cobra in terms of size.
Sure, you probably think mosquitos as more annoying than anything, but these buzzy, blood-sucking insects are actually one of the deadliest creatures on the planet. They kill more than 700,000 people a year through the spread of infectious diseases like West Nile virus, dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever.
The saltwater crocodile is one of the largest crocodiles in the world, and an incredibly dangerous predator that ambushes its prey and swallows it whole. But that hasn’t stopped poachers from hunting it. Crocodile skin is highly prized for its commercial value in the fashion industry, and the meat and eggs are considered delicacies.
The tsetse fly is similar to the mosquito in that its lethality comes not from the fly itself, but from the highly infectious diseases it spreads – mainly sleeping sickness that affects both humans and animals. It’s found predominantly in tropical Africa and is generally divided into three different categories: savannah, forest and riverine.
Western Taipan Snake
Unless you’re trekking through the outback of eastern Australia, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever come across this snake that’s considered to be one of the deadliest in the world. It’s not even particularly aggressive for a snake, but if it does strike you, better have your affairs in order. Its venom is the most toxic of any snake on the planet.
The name “hippopotamus” is derived from Greek meaning “river horse,” which is not at all what comes to mind when looking at the stout, stocky and altogether awkward hippo – the third-largest land mammal in the world. And though they’re generally herbivores and not territorial, their aggressive and unpredictable behavior can be extremely dangerous.
Despite their small size in comparison to bigger sharks like great whites, the bull shark is among the deadliest known to man. They’re incredibly aggressive, quick to attack and hunt and swim mainly in shallow, coastal waters, which means they’re much more likely to encounter humans – which doesn’t always end well.
Even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t usually get freaked out by scorpions, this one is definitely worth panicking over. Also known as the yellow or Naqab desert scorpion, the Deathstalker is one of the most dangerous scorpions in the world thanks to its highly toxic venom and painful sting.
Great White Shark
It’s almost impossible to think of the great white shark without thinking of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” which was based on a novel about a shark that terrorizes a small beach community on the Fourth of July. Great white sharks love to hang out in warm, coastal, offshore waters of places like Mexico, South Africa and the United States – all places that ensure contact with humans.
There’s a slight misconception in just why the African bee, which is in many ways similar to the average European bee, is so dangerous. Scientists have discovered their sting is not much more venomous than the typical bee sting, rather, it's aggressiveness with which the bees attack.
Venomous stinging ants seem like something made up by the writers of a Sci-fi movie, but these nasty little guys are all too real. They were discovered in 1775 by a Danish zoologist, and got the nickname “bullet ant” because some victims have likened the pain of their attack to a gunshot wound.
Similar to the pufferfish, the stonefish is a highly toxic marine fish that has nevertheless become a sought-after delicacy throughout Asia and the Indo-Pacific. It delivers its venom through a ridge of fins on its back, which can be easily stepped on or disturbed by swimmers. The worst part? The more pressure that is applied, more venom is released.
This one may not seem so obvious, but in reality, deer are one of the most dangerous animals in America. The problem? Humans are encroaching on their natural habitat, and forcing deer populations into close quarters with more roads and highways, leading to an increase in deer-related car crashes.
The African bush elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal on the planet, and one of the deadliest, too. Their overwhelming size is one factor – fully grown males can stand up to 13 feet tall and weigh over 6.5 tons, while females are generally about half as big. Their tusks alone can reach up to eight feet in length.
Humans and hyenas go way back. There are depictions of hyenas in the cave paintings at Chauvet, which date back nearly 40,000 years. They’re famous for being vulture-like scavengers that will eat literally anything, but the spotted hyena is also an aggressive predator that can (and will) attack humans.
Found exclusively in a handful of Indonesian islands, the Komodo dragon is the largest species of lizard in the world and a deadly predator. They sit at the very top of the food chain, and hunt pretty much anything that walks (and sometimes not – they’ve also been known to scavenge carrion).
The boomslang is found only in sub-Saharan Africa and is generally considered to pose a threat to only the small animals it feeds on. You have to give this highly venomous tree snake a little credit; it’s a fairly timid species and won’t attack anything too big for it to eat or strike unless it’s provoked.
Australian Funnel-Web Spider
What’s scarier than a highly toxic spider? A highly toxic spider whose fangs are powerful enough to penetrate through fingernails, shoes and other soft materials. Thankfully, the Australian funnel-web spider is only found on the eastern coast of the island continent, making it highly unlikely you’ll ever encounter one.
Octopuses are some of the ocean’s strangest creatures, and in the case of the blue-ringed octopus, one of the deadliest. Their venom is extremely lethal, containing high doses of compounds that induce nausea, respiratory failure and heart failure. As of now, there is no known anti-venom.
Portuguese Man O’War
Just the mere sight of a single one of these venomous hydrozoa (yes, they’re actually not jellyfish) on a beach can be enough to warrant closing it to the public. Their tentacles, which can extend for as long as 30 feet below the surface, sting and paralyze their prey, but don’t worry – for humans, it’s more painful than it is deadly.
The assassin bug lives up to its name with a terrifying method of killing its prey. It uses its long proboscis to inject a venomous saliva that liquifies the insides of its prey, making it easier to digest. But what makes the assassin bug truly dangerous to humans is the fact that there are some species that feed on blood, making them as deadly as mosquitos.
These giant herbivores are some of the largest creatures on Earth and are hunted for the very thing that makes them so dangerous – their horns. They’re highly coveted by trophy hunters and poachers, and are even believed to have medicinal properties in some cultures. Every year, people are gored by black rhinos, who are the most aggressive of all.
With a top speed of 36 mph and incredible agility and strength, the leopard is a fearsome predator in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. They typically stick to hunting wild prey at night, but have been known to attack sick or injured humans if they are desperate enough, or if their territory is invaded.
Giant Pacific Octopus
Though not nearly as dangerous as the blue-ringed octopus, the giant pacific octopus is one of the ocean’s deadliest predators, eating literally anything it can get its tentacles on; shrimp, lobster, snails – even other octopuses. There have also been reports of Giant Pacific octopus attacking small sharks, making this one crafty cephalopod.
Six-Eyed Sand Spider
A cousin to the highly venomous recluse spider, the six-eyed sand spider is just as dangerous, though not quite as common. These medium-sized spiders are found mainly in sandy areas in southern Africa. They get their name from their preferred method of attack – they hide their flattened bodies in the smooth sand and strike when small prey (or a foot) is near.