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Nature is just one big arms race. You evolve thicker skin, they evolve bigger teeth. So while we at Cracked like to regularly terrify our readers with tales of all the frightening creatures we share the planet with, we should always keep one thing in mind:

Nature is always finding ways to top itself.

For instance, just recently scientists have discovered ...

The Spider That Builds an 80-Foot Web

Imagine you're riding your bicycle down the middle of an empty, wide-open street when suddenly your face is tangled in a spider web. We're talking about a web that spans the entire distance between two buildings, like the freaking aftermath of a Spider-Man chase scene.

Congratulations, you somehow have a Darwin's bark spider in your neighborhood. This species has been known to build webs that span freaking rivers. The largest one found was 82 goddamned feet across. If that sounds far-fetched to you, you're just like scientists in 2009 before they discovered the thing. You'd think that an 82-foot spider web, stretching across rivers like a fishing net designed to catch kayakers, would be the sort of thing that'd be hard to miss. Or maybe "come out of hiding" is phase one in the bark spider's plan.

Perfect for clotheslining a Jet Skier.

Either way, you really do have to admire how spiders are always raising their game. After all, it's more or less a rule that any list of creepy, dangerous or messed-up creatures is going to have at least one spider on it, since that is the animal Satan created when God was napping.

The Darwin's bark spider spins both the largest and the strongest web of any spider known. Experts think it's entirely possible this spider's web can catch birds. They just haven't seen it happen yet.

"I could sure as hell go for some chicken right now, I'll tell you that much."

Their webs can get to be about the length of two buses and can easily bridge rivers without even giving a shit. In order to support the weight of all that web and the struggling, dying life-forms caught in it, the webbing has to be incredibly strong. In fact, it's one of the strongest materials known to man -- 10 times stronger than Kevlar.

M. Kuntner, forskning.no
Which might make it more suited to downing small aircraft than birds.

Of course, up to this point, the spiders have only been using their horrible science to build adamantium webs, not suits of armor. But it's safe to assume that this is only the beginning, and pretty soon we're going to need better bullets.

Huh. Apparently Spider-Man can beat Batman. Thanks, Nature!

The Leech That Wants to Get Inside You


In 2007, a new species of leech was discovered in Peru. When we say "discovered," we mean that it was found inside the head of a 9-year-old after she complained about a "sliding sensation" in the back of her nostril.

After digging around in there, physician Renzo Arauco-Brown discovered what appeared to be a leech with a chainsaw for a face.

"Hi there, human race. Just dropping by in case y'all are running short on nightmares."

The species, dubbed Tyrannobdella rex, is 3 inches long and has a set of teeth five times bigger than your regular leech chompers. But that's not even the most terrifying thing about it.

Unlike regular leeches that just kind of hang off your body like horrible ornaments, the T. rex leech prefers to feed from mucous membranes, rather than your skin. That means the soft tissue all up inside you. Places like the inside of your nose, behind your eyes, up your ass ... all the places you're least happy to have a 3-inch worm with daggers aggressively shooting out of its face.

You shouldn't put down your coffee and look up more images of these things right now.

If that still doesn't make you want to squeeze your various orifices so tight that you couldn't slip a needle through them, the scientists studying this monster explain that it doesn't really "bite" you, per se; it's really more of a sawing motion. Like a little miner happily hacking his way through your sinus cavity to liberate the sweet riches within.

"And here I am, demonstrating that I have the worst job ever."

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The Worm That Survives 10,000 Feet Below Us

We're not including this beast on this list simply because it's called the "devil worm." But it does at least warrant mentioning that it is indeed called the "devil worm."

National Geographic
"But really, what's more terrifying: a pitchfork, or my face?

By itself, the devil worm is tiny and ineffectual. Chances are you have more-dangerous worms living in your brain right now. What makes it disturbing is the fact that it lives so far underground that it doesn't have any business existing. How far? How about more than 2 miles straight down? Yep, dig down 10,000 feet and you'll find the devil worm happily squirming in an environment where only trace bacteria were thought to exist.

"A microscopic worm? This was totally worth abandoning my family for."

More frightening than the devil worm itself is what it represents. Scientists now think that we might be on the verge of discovering a "rich new biosphere" under the Earth. How much of this new branch of the animal kingdom will delight in feasting upon our livers? We don't yet know, though we're going to conservatively guess "most of it." But we do at least know that miles below our feet, deeper than any human has ever excavated, there exists a pale, squirming, eyeless, Lovecraftian nightmare. Always burrowing.

So, y'know. Fhtagn and stuff.

The Roach That Can Jump on Your Face

Nobody likes cockroaches. They may not have giant fangs or venom glands, but they look every bit as if the concept of filth grew legs, and their only living goal is to identify objects that you put in your mouth, and then run and poop all over them. The one small favor God allowed us is that roaches are relegated to the ground realm. Though they have wings, they're about as adept with them as chickens are. All you have to do to avoid a cockroach is stand on a chair and shriek.

Shriek like a little girl. Go on, it's fine.

Until now, that is. Scientists have discovered a roach in South Africa that has the ability to jump, something that no other species of cockroach is known to do. And the little bastards aren't just kind of good at it, they're twice as good at jumping as grasshoppers are. They can leap almost 50 times their own body length, which means that even if you scramble onto a chair, that cockroach can be on your face in 0.1 seconds. Don't scream -- opening your mouth is exactly what it wants you to do.

Although it can easily be mistaken for a grasshopper, with its freakishly modified hind legs, the critter researchers have dubbed the "leaproach" is not related to them, but rather is an example of "convergent evolution," which in biological terms is kind of like what The Thing does to Arctic researchers.

The leaproach, or cockjump to its friends (it has no friends).

Sure, they're in Africa and not in our homes yet, but all they have to do to get here is learn how to swim, and that probably won't be long.

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Rat-Eating Pitcher Plant

The pitcher plant is already something that raises a huge middle finger to the natural order, or it would if it had fingers. Plants just aren't supposed to eat animals; their job is merely to sit at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder and taste good. We've had to accept the fact that there are plants out there that eat bugs, but you know what they say -- give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

We've got our time-lapsing eyes on you, plant.

In 2007, three botanists scaled Mount Victoria in the Philippines in search of new species, and they stumbled into Nepenthes attenboroughii, named after David Attenborough. Most pitcher plants are content to snack on flies, but this bastard is big enough to eat rats.

Nepenthes attenboroughii uses the same killing method as other pitchers: Its prey is lured to the cuplike growths filled with sweet nectar, but when they get too close, they slip and fall in, tiny paws thrashing for purchase on the slippery sides as they are slowly, very slowly digested by a plant that vaguely resembles genitalia.

"I never got along with my mother. This feels like poetic justice."

The question is, are we just going to stand back and watch while vegetables acquire a taste for higher order mammals? All we know is that the next time we go swimming in a lake, we're making sure it really is a lake.

The Murderous Flying Fungus


When you think "fungus," you probably think of mushrooms, or maybe athlete's foot. It's something that grows in damp, warm places, and on the danger scale it's somewhere between "mild annoyance" and "delicious when deep fried."

But then you have the bad characters in the group, like the newly discovered Cryptococcus gattii, an invisible airborne fungus that, who knows, you might be breathing right now.

National Geographic
We feel pretty safe stating that the words "invisible" and "airborne" will never precede anything good.

We don't want to cause a panic here; all we're going to say is that National Geographic described it using the words "hypervirulent," "deadly," "fast-spreading" and "superfungi," at least one of which we're pretty sure they made up just to describe this species.

We knew that deadly fungi existed. You'd find it in warm, wet places like the tropics, where it would sometimes infect weakened or already-sick victims. So imagine everyone's surprise when this new strain showed up in Oregon and killed half a dozen perfectly healthy people.

We're no doctors, but this thing has sure done something weird to this man's testicle.

It spreads when its microscopic spores float through the air and you breathe them in. Washing your hands won't prevent it, and neither will avoiding sick people (it's not contagious -- it does just fine breeding and spreading on its own). There is no prevention -- the only defense is to wait for symptoms to appear and go get treatment (it can take weeks or months after exposure for symptoms to kick in). Fortunately, the symptoms are unique and easy to spot -- things like headache, red eyes, lethargy and "apathy."

Holy shit! We think we have it right now!

It was probably in one of the 26 whiskey shots we had last night.

For more killers you might never see coming, check out The 6 Deadliest Creatures (That Can Fit In Your Shoe). Or discover 10 Creepy Plants That Shouldn't Exist.

And stop by LinkSTORM because it is your only sanctuary now.

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