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Scariest animals in the world

For The Win logo For The Win 2019-03-08 Pete Thomas and David Strege
a monkey with its mouth open: Agence France-Presse © Agence France-Presse Agence France-Presse

Photo: Andreas Gebert/AFP/Getty Images

The planet teems with wild critters that vary in size and appearance, including many that either look scary or pose actual threats to people.

We've compiled a list that excludes some obvious candidates - great white sharks, lions, tigers, and bears, etc. - and includes some of the more obscure members of the animal kingdom that (in most cases) you would not want to mess with.

A shrimp that can deliver a knockout punch to an octopus? A buffalo nicknamed "widowmaker"? A small fish that can kill? The most feared snake in Africa? We've got these covered, along with many others.

Take a look at the scariest animals in the world. Some might surprise you:

Watch out for the deadly stinger

a close up of an animal: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Scorpions look kind of like mini lobsters, but that tail is anything but appetizing. All of the more than 1,000 species of scorpions have a venomous sting, but only about 40 are deadly to humans.

File Photo © File Photo File Photo One study estimated that for every person killed by a poisonous snake, a poisonous scorpion kills 10. Scorpion stings occur an estimated 1.2 million times every year with 3,250 deaths.

Underdeveloped tropical and subtropical countries are most susceptible. About 1,000 deaths occur in Mexico each year whereas only four deaths in 11 years are recorded in the U.S.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Its fist-like clubs punch with the speed of a bullet

a lobster on a white background: File photo © File Photo File photo

Ounce for ounce, the peacock mantis shrimp packs what might be the most powerful punch of any critter - in or out of the ocean.

Within the mantis shrimp's shell are hinged arm-like claws, with fist-like clubs at their ends. They lash out with the speed of a .22-caliber bullet-the fastest punch in the world-and literally smash their prey.

As the Monterey Bay Aquarium stated in a blog post, these claws can shatter clam shells, crack open crab shells, break glass - even deliver a knockout blow to an octopus or a fish.

"The claws are made of material so hard it can deliver 50,000 blows between molts-without breaking," the blog post states. "It's being studied by scientists as a model for crafting super-strong body armor for soldiers."

Fisherman who have carelessly handled mantis shrimp have suffered excruciating injuries.

Photo: ©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

The most feared snake in Africa

File Photo © File Photo File Photo

The good news is, the black mamba only attacks humans if it is threatened or cornered. The bad news is, its venom is predominantly neurotoxic and symptoms become apparent within 10 minutes. Without appropriate anti-venom, symptoms progress from respiratory failure to cardiovascular collapse to death.

Not surprisingly, the black mamba is the most feared snake in Africa. Bites are rare outside Africa; snake handlers and enthusiasts are the usual victims.

When confronted, it will give a threatening display, opening its black mouth wide and flicking its tongue, hissing and spreading its neck-flap.

A trainee safari guide was bitten in the index finger as a black mamba was being put into a jar outside a classroom at Southern African Wildlife College. Told by a first-aid staff member he could continue his lecture, the guide complained of blurred vision and within an hour he collapsed, and died shortly thereafter.

Photos: Wikipedia Commons

Dive with these ravenous cephalopods at your own peril

File photo © File Photo File photo

Humboldt squid, a.k.a. jumbo squid, reside at great depths. This keeps encounters with humans at a minimum, but there have been scary encounters involving divers and flesh-craving cephalopods that range across vast swaths of the eastern Pacific.

Perhaps none as harrowing as the legendary nighttime assault nearly 30 years ago on diver/photographer Alex Kerstich in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. As others watched from the boat, frenzied squid turned their attention from a hooked shark to Kerstich.

a man holding a fish: File photo © File Photo File photo One grabbed his right swim fin and pulled downward. Another grabbed his head. Cactus-like tentacles found his neck. He bashed the squid with his dive light and it let go but stole both the light and the gold chain he'd been wearing.

Another squid wrapped its tentacles around Kerstitch's face and chest. He dug his fingers into its clammy body. It slid down and around his waist and pulled him downward in pulsing bursts. Then it suddenly let go, but made off with his compression meter.

For whatever reason, the attack ceased and Kerstitch got to the surface dazed and oozing blood from neck wounds, thankful to be alive.

Encounters are rare except when these deep-sea squid follow food sources toward the surface. Anglers sometimes target them off Southern California, and boat decks become a mess of squid carcasses, water, and ink.

Photos: ©Jim Knowlton and Dana Wharf Sportfishing

Tiny frog contains enough poison to kill 10 humans

a frog sitting on a branch: File photo © File Photo File photo

A single golden poison frog - among a variety of so-called poison dart frogs found in South and Central American rain forests - may contain enough toxin to kill 10 grown men, according to National Geographic.

Indigenous tribes in Colombia used the frogs' secreted venom to lace arrow tips for hunting.

More than 100 species of poison dart frogs exist. Most are small, but brightly colored with exotic-looking patterns. Their level of toxicity varies, and helps them avoid predation by larger critters.

BBC Earth, in a 2015 story under the headline, "Poison dart frogs are the most poisonous animals alive," reported on the golden poison frog: "It keeps its poison in glands beneath its skin, so any reckless human taking a bite would be in trouble immediately."

The poison is batrachotoxin, which causes paralysis and death when it enters the bloodstream.

Indigenous hunters would agitate the frogs to get them to froth with toxin, which the hunters would scrape onto arrow tips. The arrows or darts would generally kill even large animals after a single shot.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Would you order this fish in a restaurant?

a close up of a bird on a beach: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

The porcupinefish, also known as a blowfish or pufferfish, inflates its body and radiates sharp spines as defensive mechanisms. Some species are known to be poisonous with neurotoxins that are 1,200 times more potent than cyanide.

The fish is a delicacy in the Philippines but is illegal to sell, and for good reason. If prepared improperly, the fish can be deadly. In the Philippines from 2007 to 2014 alone, there were a reported 119 poisoning cases, including 17 deaths.

Our suggestion? Order the steak.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

An appearance that might inspire nightmares

File photo © File Photo File photo

The black sea devil, or anglerfish, is among the most ferocious-looking critters on the planet. But the fish shown above is only 3.5 inches long and was documented nearly 2,000 feet beneath the surface.

The rare encounter occurred in 2014 in California's Monterey Bay. The video footage - believed to be the first-ever footage of a live anglerfish in its natural habitat - was captured via the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's remotely operated vehicle, Doc Ricketts.

The anglerfish is named because of the manner by which it feeds: by dangling the luminescent tip at the end of a "fishing pole" projecting from its head, and using the "glowing lure" to attract unsuspecting prey.

It then snatches that prey, usually a small fish or squid, with its long, sharp teeth.

While these fish are mysterious and rarely observed, many will find them to look familiar based on a scene in the popular animated movie "Finding Nemo," in which Marlin and Dory are entranced by the glowing light and narrowly escape capture.

Photo: ©2014 MBARI

Massive beast nicknamed 'widowmaker'

a couple of sheep standing on top of a grass covered field: File photo © File Photo File photo

According to some estimates, African buffalo, or Cape buffalo, gore and kill roughly 200 people annually. This massive bovine - they can reach weights of 2,000 pounds - has earned the nickname "widowmaker" and "black death," even though the animals can be safely observed from a distance.

Siyabona Africa stated, "It is said that Buffalo look at you as if you owe them money, and this is an appropriate description if you should ever come across them on foot in the bush."

With formidable horns they've killed lions and knocked down sturdy fences to raid crops, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

Wounded buffaloes are particularly dangerous. They've been known to ambush and kill big-game hunters trying to approach and finish the job.

That said, these animals are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing in grasslands, savannas and other habitats near water. Threats to them come mostly from humans, but also lions, hyenas, leopards and wild dogs.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

More deadly than a great white shark

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The most venomous marine animal? It's the box jellyfish that features tentacles "covered in biological booby traps known as nematocysts-tiny darts loaded with poison," as described by NOAA.

Fortunately, only a few of the 50 or so species of box jellyfish have venom that can be lethal to humans. That's the good news. The bad news: In Australia, it ranks No. 1 in animal-caused deaths among humans, ahead of crocodiles and great white sharks.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Eel-shaped fish packs a powerful jolt

a fish swimming under water: File photo © File Photo File photo

If you'll be traveling to the rain forests of South America, electric eels are among the creatures you'll hope to avoid.

Besides being large and slithery - they can measure to 8 feet and weigh 40-plus pounds - electric eels can deliver a painful jolt, sort of like that from a stun gun.

Reports National Geographic: "Human deaths from electric eels are extremely rare. However, multiple shocks can cause respiratory or heart failure, and people have been known to drown in shallow water after a stunning jolt."

Electric eels are actually fish with flattened heads. Their high voltage may stun prey or ward off predators.

They inhabit the vast Amazon and Orinoco River basins of South America - typically floodplains, swamps, creeks and inlets.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Haunting goblins of the deep

a fish in its mouth: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Goblin sharks have more than 30 rows of sharp teeth on both the upper and lower jaw. Typically, goblin sharks grow to 10 or 13 feet, but there is documentation of a female that measured 20 feet.

Known as a living fossil, goblin sharks are the only living representative from the Mitsukurinidae family, which goes back 125 million years.

They inhabit waters greater than 330 feet so they pose little danger to humans, though looking at one could cause nightmares.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

A toothy mouth to avoid

File Photo © File Photo File Photo

The critically endangered gharial, also known as the gavial or fish-eating crocodile, is said to be down to fewer than 235 globally but small populations are recovering in tributaries of the Ganges in Nepal. It is native to the Indian subcontinent.

The gharial's long and narrow snout features up to 29 teeth on its upper jaw and up to 26 on its lower jaw, and the front teeth are the biggest.

Gharials eat fish. But one myth suggests they eat humans, too, based on the fact jewelry has been found in gharial stomachs.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

'Jaws' of the jungle

a monkey with its mouth open © File photo

Every species of baboon features powerful jaws with sharp, terrifying canine teeth, like the Hamadryas baboon above. They definitely get your attention.

Though attacks on humans are said to be rare, South Africa is experiencing what Outside Online once described as Baboon Wars. With urban development encroaching on their territory, baboons descend on people's homes looking for food. Conflicts are inevitable.

In 2006, a man in South Africa was attacked by an ambushing baboon while walking home. The man's forearms were ripped to the bone and one of the baboon's teeth was removed from his arm during surgery.

Incidentally, the five baboon species are native to Africa.

Photo: Andreas Gebert/AFP/Getty Images

Sea snake far more venomous than a cobra

File photo © File Photo File photo

The beaked sea snake might possess the most powerful venom of any snake. According to the Marine Education Society of Australasia, a mere 1.5 milligrams of its venom is four to eight times as toxic as cobra venom.

Discover magazine reports: "It lives throughout Asia and Australasia, has a reputation for being aggressive, and swims in estuaries and lagoons where it often gets entangled in fishing nets.

"Unwary fishermen get injected with venom that's more potent than a cobra's or a rattlesnake's. It's perhaps unsurprising that this one species accounts for the vast majority of injuries and deaths from sea snake bites."

MESA reports that nine out of every 10 deaths caused by sea snakes are caused by the beaked sea snake, also known as a hooked-nose sea snake.

Australian Geographic states: "All 31 Australian sea snakes are venomous, but most are docile - with the exception of the beaked sea snake. Its venom contains a highly toxic dose of nerve and muscle toxins. A single bite can result in paralysis and muscle damage within six hours and delivers enough venom (7.9-9mg) to kill a number of human adults."

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

When threatened, they whip out their 'saws'

a close up of a fish: File photo © File Photo File photo

There are five species of sawfish inhabiting the world's tropical and subtropical coastal waters. While sawfish look dangerous, they typically do not pose a threat to humans except while acting in self-defense.

According to the Florida Museum, "Humans are too large to be viewed as potential prey. Care must be taken when handling or approaching a sawfish of any size, as they may defend themselves when they feel threatened, using their rostrum to strike from side-to-side with considerable force."

Sawfish are rays, not sharks, and can measure 20-plus feet.

Two species - the smalltooth sawfish and largetooth sawfish - are found in U.S. waters. Both are critically endangered.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

When it comes to bison, heed the warnings

a cow is walking down the street: File photo © File Photo File photo

Bison, commonly referred to as buffalo, are the largest land mammals in North America, with the larger males reaching weights of 2,000 pounds.

More than 4,000 of these iconic critters reside within Yellowstone National Park, which makes them among the most encountered large animals in a park that encompasses parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

While they appear docile, bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal - including grizzly bears and wolves.

The fault is usually that of tourists who get too close, thinking they're safe, and are either rammed or gored.

Yellowstone warnings are clear: "Bison are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans. Always stay at least 25 yards from bison."

Photos: ©Pete Thomas and Yellowstone National Park

File photo © File Photo File photo

This one made the Guinness World Records

a close up of a spider: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Found in South and Central American, the Brazilian wandering spider is aggressive and highly venomous. In 2010, Guinness World Records named it the deadliest spider in the world.

The spider's leg span can grow up to 5 inches, accounting for its ability to move fast. There are eight species of this genus, but only the Phoneutria fera can kill healthy adult humans.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Annoying bug that carries a deadly punch

a boy in a green jacket: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

For most people, mosquitoes are simply an annoyance to put up with while hiking or camping. But these insects are reportedly responsible for at least 2 million deaths a year because of the diseases they can carry.

West Nile virus, the Zika virus, malaria and yellow fever are among the diseases transmitted by various species of mosquitoes with a reported 700 million people affected annually in Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico, Russia and Asia.

And if you've ever been in a swarm of mosquitoes in Alaska, that can be pretty scary, too, as evidenced by researcher Jesse Krause. Alaskans jokingly refer to mosquitoes as the state bird.

Photos: Jesse Krause

File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Not your typical backyard lizard

a reptile on a rocky beach: Agence France-Presse © Agence France-Presse Agence France-Presse

The komodo dragon, the largest living species of lizard, typically weighs around 150 pounds and can reach a length of 10 feet. The Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute reports that the largest verified specimen weighed 366 pounds.

Its size is enough to put a scare into anyone encountering one on the islands it inhabits in Indonesia.

Of 24 attacks on humans from 1974 to 2012, five were deadly. Most attacks have been on locals living near Komodo National Park.

Photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

Blood is its favorite drink of choice

The Common #Vampire #Bat is a #blood licker - they have sharp teeth that will nick the skin of their #victim and then lick, not suck, their blood. There have been people who have woken up in a pool of their own blood long after the bat has left. Oh - and they can run! Photo: National Geographic . . . #MuseumofNaturalHistory #Natural History #Mammal #DKY #Science #BatsfofInstagram #Bats #VampireBats #CreepyNature #Chiropterologist #FlyingMammal #BloodSucker #MilwaukeePublicMuseum #MPMDidYouKnow #SpookyScience #TheMoreYouKnow #MPM #MKEmuseum A post shared by Milwaukee Public Museum (@milwaukeepublicmuseum) on Oct 31, 2018 at 3:15pm PDT

Many believe the vampire bat to be a blood-sucking creature. While it is true it needs to drink blood from other animals to survive, the vampire bat actually licks the blood from its victims.

The vampire bat feeds on cows, pigs, horses and birds, and does so by making a small cut with its teeth. Then it licks up the flowing blood with its tongue.

Less than 1 percent of vampire bats carry rabies. It's very rare for humans to be infected by a vampire bat bite, but it can happen. In 2010, four children in Peru died after being bitten.

Generally, its name and appearance are what is scary.

Adorable deer more dangerous than you might think

a deer standing in the grass: File photo © File Photo File photo

They don't look dangerous, and typically pose little threat, but deer are responsible for more fatalities than any other animal in the U.S. This is due to occasional freak close encounters, but mostly as a result of highway collisions.

A 2016 analysis of CDC data by LCB placed deer atop the list of animals most likely to cause human deaths - above bees/hornets/wasps, dogs, and cows (at Nos. 2, 3 and 4).

It varies from region to region, but overall, deer are responsible for an estimated 120 human fatalities each year.

Still, U.S. residents' odds of being killed by any animal are extremely low - 1 in 1,384,594.

However, that number changes depending on region. In Montana, which boasts the highest odds, the number is 1 in 674,000.

Sharks were No. 9 on the list, bears No. 10.

Photo: USFWS

Most ferocious fish in the world?

a close up of a fish © File photo

In his best-selling book Through the Brazilian Wilderness, Theodore Roosevelt described piranhas as "the most ferocious fish in the world."

Known for its powerful jaws, sharp teeth and aggressive feeding behavior when hungry, the piranha can easily strike fear into anybody diving into the waters of South America where the species exists.

But piranhas generally feed on other fish and attacks on humans are rare. Leave them alone and they usually leave you alone.

When attacks do occur, it's usually when rivers are low and prey is scarce, and when swimmers disturb its spawning grounds.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Running away won't help

File Photo © File Photo File Photo

The fact Africanized bees can chase a person for over a half mile is scary enough, but traits such as being easily provoked and quicker to attack in big numbers add to the fear factor.

Stings from Africanized bees, commonly referred to as killer bees, account for one or two deaths each year. Thankfully these cases are rare.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Prime candidate for a Hollywood horror film

a close up of an animal: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

The star-nosed mole looks like it belongs in a Hollywood horror film with the title, "The attack of the killer mole."

Those claws are a bit frightening, and that face, well, that face is something only a mother could love.

Aside from its scary appearance, the star-nosed mole doesn't bother humans. It lives underground and feeds on worms, small invertebrates, larvae, mollucks and aquatic insects, among other things.

As for those large claws? They're for fast digging.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

A creature with no clothes

an animal with its mouth open: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

While scary and menacing looking, the protruding teeth of the naked mole-rat are hardly deadly. They're used for digging.

The naked mole-rat is a burrowing rodent native to parts of east Africa, where they are widespread and numerous in these drier regions. They live in clusters averaging 75 to 80 individuals. The tunnel systems they build can measure up to three miles in cumulative length.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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