#3. Uloborid Spiders Crush Their Prey Like Garbage Compactors
Via Robert Whyte
Virtually all spiders known to man possess venom-injecting fangs that they use to paralyze their prey. It's the thing that makes them scary, along with the legs, and the eyes, and the everything. Uloborid spiders, on the other hand, are some of the few that have no venom, and they don't even have the ability to bite. If you think this sounds like a less frightening spider, you are seriously underestimating nature's deranged creativity.
Via Robert Whyte
Feel free to take out your d20 and roll a sanity check now.
Scientists had noticed for some time that these venomless spiders wrapped their prey in ridiculous amounts of silk -- up to 28,000 wrapping motions and 450 feet of the stuff to encase just a single insect. It almost seemed like they were trying a little too hard to compensate for their lameness and lack of poison. In reality, uloborids don't need poison or fangs: Their knitting abilities are deadly enough as it is.
You see, when biologist William Eberhard decided to perform tiny insect autopsies on uloborid victims, he found broken legs and caved-in faces. Though the spider weighed just 14 milligrams, its prey had been compacted into small balls by several hundred milligrams of pressure -- compare the size of this insect leg with the body of the same insect after an uloborid was done with it:
If the leg looks bruised, it's because the uloborid beat the corpse with it, just for fun.
It'd be like stuffing you into a suitcase. Silk did that. Hundreds of layers of silk, each adding a little more pressure to the suffocating bondage death cocoon. Eberhard mentions that some prey are "even killed outright" by the process, which can take over an hour. Some. Some are "even" killed. The rest presumably live long enough to regret ever saying "Haha, check out that fangless idiot -- I'm gonna go stand in its web for a while, and poop."
"Ha! Hey, guys, he's just looking at me like he's gonna MMRRRMPHH mrrmmffmfmm!"
After crushing its victim, the uloborid soaks the whole cocoon in powerful corrosive slobber, melting down the entire insect into a protein shake from hell. Sure, it might take a uloborid a little while longer to get to the part where it actually eats its prey, but it's all worth it for the satisfaction of being the most sadistic spider ever.
#2. Epomis Beetles Eat Frogs Alive
Everyone knows that frogs eat insects, not the other way around: They just sit there all day catching bugs with their adorable slingshot tongues, if cartoons are to be believed. Well, it turns out that those cartoons have been hiding a horrifying truth from you, probably because they want you to be able to sleep at night.
Via Gil Wizen
We're not so considerate.
Yep, there's a type of cunning insect that feeds on nothing but amphibians many, many times its size. Beetle grubs of the genus Epomis are the first known example of what scientists are calling "obligatory role reversal," meaning that they have evolved to eat absolutely nothing else but the animals that used to eat them -- and since those animals happen to be toads and frogs, that also makes the Epomis larvae the first discovered insects that live exclusively on the flesh of vertebrates. Like you.
Via Gil Wizen
Today the frogs, tomorrow your face.
Biologist Gil Wizen spent more than five years studying how these insects have adapted to fight back after thousands of years of froggy oppression. First the Epomis will lure a hungry frog by wiggling its antennae like crazy, because it knows that amphibians hunt based on movement. When the frog is close enough to lash out its tongue, the bug dodges it and rams its spiky head into the frog's underbelly, making it impossible for the frog to dislodge it even as the bug turns it into dinner.
Out of the hundreds of encounters between these beetles and various amphibians witnessed by Wizen and his colleagues, every single one ended in the insect's favor -- even in cases where the frog initially had the upper hand. In one case, a beetle grub was swallowed whole by its opponent and still managed to turn the situation around. Two hours later, it emerged from the frog's mouth, attacked it and killed it:
These things have evolved to exploit the physical and psychological flaws of its former predators: The beetles move just fast enough to dodge them and know exactly how to lure them. So think twice before you step on a beetle, or we could all eventually regret it.
#1. Perisceptis Carnivora Moths Wear Suits Made of Corpses
We all know Mother Nature can be kind of a dick, but did you know she's also a big fan of serial killer movies? That's the only way we can explain the Perisceptis carnivora, which is basically a bug version of the skin-suit guy from Silence of the Lambs.
P. carnivora are similar to bagworms, a type of caterpillar that builds itself a camouflaged coat from things like pine needles, flower petals and moss; the sort of adorable things you'd expect a caterpillar to find fashionable.
Via Norm Townsend
Don't be too impressed. This picture was taken way after Labor Day.
Cute, right? Well, P. carnivora do the same thing ... with body parts.
P. carnivora, you see, spend their larval stage wrapped up in a delicious taco of decomposing limbs and hollowed-out insect heads, woven together with their own silk. To other insects, it probably looks like some sort of Frankenstein monster.
"Do these eviscerated cockroaches make me look fat?"
But where does P. carnivora find so many dead insect parts? Do they just find them lying around? Nope, they're a little bit more proactive (and terrifying) than that. P. carnivora are one of the few known caterpillars that are strictly carnivorous, and once they're done eating their prey alive, they add the leftovers to their literal bodysuits. Again, this is what these bastards do when they're babies.
And as if that wasn't creepy enough, it can hunt without even moving. Anchoring its little house to a surface, it wallows day and night in its festering bag of chewed body parts, waiting patiently to spring out at flies, beetles, wasps or even spiders.
You know, whatever's "in" this season.
More from Jonathan at bogleech.com.