When we think of dangerous creatures, our mind automatically goes to sharks, lions, bears, crocodiles, or other beasts like that. Though these are certainly some of the deadliest animals found on Earth, there are other, lesser-known creatures that are equally, if not more lethal, than them. While some of these contribute to significant loss of life, others pack enough venom or poison to put unlucky travelers out of commission. Here, we are going to take a look at 12 such dangerous creatures that you should stay away from at all costs!
1. Tsetse fly
If you are disgusted by houseflies, wait until you hear about tsetse flies!
Found pretty much all over tropical Africa, tsetse flies are large, biting flies that play a crucial role in transmitting diseases. These flies suck the blood of humans and animals for food.
When extracting blood from muscle tissue, the flies pick up pathogens from an infected host and then they inject the same pathogen into a previously healthy host. They are the biological vectors of trypanosomes, which cause animal trypanosomiasis and human sleeping sickness.
Tsetse flies prevent mixed farming in sub-Saharan Africa, and that is why they are considered as one of the major causes of rural poverty in the region. Lands that are infested with tsetse flies are cultivated using rudimentary tools instead of working animals because the flies transmit the nagana disease, which weakens and kills these animals.
Cattle that manage to survive the disease produce very little milk, and pregnant cows often suffer miscarriages. Because of this, farmers have access to very little manure to fertilize the soil.
Because of tsetse flies, around 4,000,000 square miles of fertile land in sub-Saharan Africa cannot be cultivated. Countries that are infested with this fly are debt-ridden, poor, and underdeveloped. (1, 2)
2. Indian red scorpion
Hottentotta tamulus, commonly known as the “Indian red scorpion,” is one of the most lethal scorpions in the world! Found all over India, eastern Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, the scorpion prefers humid tropical and subtropical habitats.
It is also often found in or near human settlements. Contrary to its common name, the Indian red scorpion comes in a range of colorations including brown, orange, and reddish-brown. It is also quite small, about 2.0 to 3.5 inches in length.
The Indian red scorpion does not necessarily hunt people, but it will sting anyone who comes in contact with it. It produces a powerful venom that affects the pulmonary and cardiovascular system and eventually causes pulmonary edema, which may lead to death.
Children are most likely to die from this scorpion’s sting, and clinical studies have recorded a fatality rate of 8 to 40%. When someone is stung, they may experience a plethora of unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, sweating, severe local pain, priapism, loss of consciousness, breathlessness, muscular convulsions, abnormal heart rhythms, shock, and many more. Scorpion antivenom has little to no effect in treatment.
Although they are dangerous, the Indian red scorpions are bred in captivity for medical research. Their toxins have special potassium channel-blocking peptides, which may be used as immunosuppressants for various autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. (1, 2)
3. Irukandji jellyfish
Irukandji jellyfish are several similar species of extremely venomous box jellyfish. They tend to be very small, and adults grow up to about one cubic centimeter in size. There are around 16 known species of Irukandji, and they are both the smallest and some of the most venomous jellyfish in the world!
Found in the northern marine waters of Australia, Irukandji jellyfish fire their stingers into unsuspecting victims, causing a variety of symptoms that are collectively known as “Irukandji syndrome.”
Some of the common symptoms include severe headache, muscle pains, backache, abdominal and chest pain, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, sweating, hypertension, pulmonary edema, and tachycardia. Though the symptoms show up gradually, they become more intense with time.
What’s worse is that because of its small size and transparent body, the Irukandji jellyfish can be difficult to spot in the water. Even their stings may be barely noticeable at first. Some describe their stings as slightly more painful than a mosquito bite.
You may know the pufferfish, commonly known as the “blowfish,” as that comical fish that balloons up whenever it is faced with a threat. Though it is famous for its unique defense mechanism, the fish is anything but funny!
Most of the pufferfish species are toxic, and they are also some of the most poisonous vertebrates in the world! In some species, the skin and internal organs, such as the liver, contain tetrodotoxin, which is a potent neurotoxin that is highly toxic to most animals when ingested.
In fact, tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide! One pufferfish produces enough toxin to kill 30 adult humans. What’s even more terrifying is that there are no known antidotes.
Surprisingly, in Japan and China, pufferfish meat is considered a delicacy, but only when they are prepared by specially trained chefs who can determine which parts are safe to eat and in what quantity. (1, 2)
5. Blue-ringed octopus
The blue-ringed octopus looks rather beautiful with its psychedelic coloring, and its small stature might make it look harmless. However, they are one of the most venomous marine animals in the world!
Found in coral reefs and tide pools in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the blue-ringed octopus can be easily identified by its yellowish skin and blue and black rings. When the animal feels threatened, these rings change color dramatically.
Though relatively docile in nature, the blue-ringed octopus can be extremely dangerous when provoked. They produce a venom that contains a potent neurotoxin called “tetrodotoxin.”
Their bites tend to be tiny and painless, which is why the victim may not even realize they have been envenomated until they start experiencing severe symptoms such as paralysis and respiratory depression.
Common symptoms may include blindness, severe and total paralysis, heart failure, respiratory arrest, and nausea. When left untreated, the symptoms can lead to death within minutes. According to experts, the blue-ringed octopus produces enough venom to kill 26 adult humans in a matter of minutes, and no known antivenom is available. (1, 2)