We all know that nature is mankind's archnemesis, all scheming down there in its volcano lair, nursing a mad murderection for all of humanity. But we often forget that man is an apex predator, and we get to play the survival game on easy level. As many unimaginable horrors as Mother Nature enjoys throwing at us, there are other, less fortunate animals out there who live their entire lives hunted by the kind of creatures that make horror movie villains pale in comparison.
5 The Monster Next Door
Jim Rorabaugh via Reptiles of Arizona
Everybody likes Jeff. He's such a cool guy! He's always up for a good time, he knows the best bars, he offers to give people a ride home if they've had too much to drink. But lately, you've been noticing something: Everybody who leaves with Jeff ... never comes back. Now, we know what you're thinking, but surely that's crazy. This is Jeff, right? You've known the dude since kindergarten -- he's the best! He's Jeff, Jeffy, Jeffman, the Jeffreak! He's not, he couldn't be ... a monster ... could he?
That's exactly what the spadefoot toad tadpole is wondering right now.
Before its graduation to frogginess, the entire existence of a spadefoot toad tadpole is a monster-next-door horror flick. By nature, they're cool and lucid little guys, subsisting on the algae they find on the bottom of a pool of water. However, their youth is spent in one small, often quickly drying puddle in the middle of a desert. They need to grow legs and a whole host of internal organs in a hurry, before the puddle dries and the sun scorches them. There's precious little time for them to grow up, and equally little food for the energy required. That's why some of the tadpoles take a look at their surroundings, say "Screw this noise," and go full horror.
They start out small, experimenting with eating a bit of meat by munching on the tiny shrimp that also occupy the pond. Within days, they graduate with honors from Carnivore College and begin their transformation from Tadpole Jekyll to Froggy Hyde. They grow much faster than their algae-chomping counterparts, and their jaws get bigger and stronger. Their digestive tracts shorten in preparation for an all-meat diet, and their tails grow more powerful. Within a week, the normal tadpoles have mutated into 'roided up monsters.
Which is when the cannibalism begins.
These killer tadpoles now see anything that moves as food, up to and very much including their own kin. And they couldn't stop even if they wanted to -- they are slaves to their hunger. It's like some sort of gypsy curse: forced to keep eating meat, any meat, family meat, or they'll quickly revert back to their smaller, weaker state and fall prey to the other monsters.
The weaker tadpoles are essentially powerless. They're almost a whole different animal. They're just down there, sucking algae at the bottom of the pond, thinking all is well, and then Jeff comes over to borrow a cup of sugar ...
National Wildlife Foundation
"Nice liver. Mind if I borrow it?"