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Nature is filled with horrible beasts that look like they want to kill you (and in fact very much do). But at least those nightmares are honest, and look the part. The real assholes are those animals that look completely harmless -- adorable even -- but possess secret powers that expose them as the goddamned monsters and borderline space aliens that they truly are. For example ...

6
Starfish Are Flesh-Eating Predators With Detachable Stomachs of Acidic Doom

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com

For many of us, starfish are little more than blind, deaf, headless, brainless creatures that feel just as at home dried up on the beach as they do rambling along in the water. If they could talk, they would absolutely be Patrick from SpongeBob. It's almost impossible for them to look less intimidating than they already do. That, unfortunately, is part of their cruel master plan. Behold a starfish's eating habits:

Mad as a Marine Biologist
Still more dignified than Golden Corral.

Yep, starfish are voracious meat lovers, consuming anything they can catch: oysters, fish, snails. Shit, if we were small enough, they'd probably get us, too. But perhaps you're wondering how they actually, you know, digest stuff, since they lack teeth, jaws, or anything even remotely resembling a mouth. Simple: They spit their sticky, acidic stomach clean out of their body, catching their prey and digesting it for hours, sometimes days.

Rodger Jackman/Oxford Scientific via Getty Images
And the Sarlacc waited for Boba Fett to fall into its mouth like a goddamn amateur.

Other starfish, like the appropriately named ambush starfish, trick their prey by raising themselves up like an adorable little tent. Just when whatever's on the menu thinks it's found a sweet little bunker to hide from predators in, it's murdered via sheer irony, and then slowly digested in horribly painful ways -- the usual routine.

New Zealand Dept. of Conservation
We weren't kidding when we said camping sucks.

Oh, but starfish aren't done poisoning your once-pleasant dreams. The snake-armed Labidiaster, despite having all the speed and agility of, well, a damned starfish, manages to snatch fast-moving, swimming prey as it passes by. Naturally, it doesn't look like much:

Martin Rauschert via SCAR-MarBIN

Kinda weird, kinda leggy, but kinda fuzzy too, right? Let's get a closer look at those legs:

University of Illinois
The Langoliers!

Of course they're made of teeth. Of course they are. These organic traps are known as pedicellariae, and the Labidiaster is completely covered in them. That explains how it catches so much prey; if one claw doesn't get you, there's about a million more just itching to have a go.

In conclusion: SpongeBob is bullshit. If that show were truly accurate, Patrick would be covered in gibbering demonic maws, regularly disguise himself as a traveling circus, and shit out his own intestines en route to turning SpongeBob into a melty, quivering taste sensation that even the krabbiest of Krabby Patties couldn't hope to match.

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5
Octopoteuthis Sports Undead Battle Tentacles

MBARI via Fox News

Unlike the giant squids of the world, Octopoteuthis deletron doesn't look like it could do any damage whatsoever. It's just an ordinary little squid, right? Even the whole one-eye thing is cute for once.

Discovery Channel via CBS News
In a sea full of two-eyed marine life, the one-eyed cephalopod has trouble judging distance.

Well, it turns out the eye is the only harmless part of this little guy. That's because this thing engages in something known as attack autotomy. In a nutshell, it deliberately snaps off its own limbs, leaving them behind so they can kill at will while master is away. As far as we know, this is the only animal that does it, so there's some good news at least.

Discover Magazine
It would certainly redefine "bear traps" if others could.

See the above pics? All arrows point to the same fucking tentacle, which is still very much alive in the bottom-right pic. The squid can, at any time, snap off part or all of as many limbs as it wants, at which point the murder spree begins. See those painful-looking, razor-sharp barbs the tentacles sport the entire way down? Yeah, they hurt. Once severed from its owner, the disembodied limb goes completely berserk, wiggling and convulsing in every possible direction, over and over again. Like mindless, fang-covered worms, the severed tentacles will just keep digging their thorns into whatever they were wrapped around when they broke loose.

And we mean anything; here's one using two of its limbs to attack a cleaning brush, a rare delicacy only served at the fanciest and most exclusive squidstaurants around:

Oh, and this isn't just some show meant to distract prey until the main body gets back from the salon or the mall or whatever it does after dropping the arms off at day care. No, the goals here are to survive, and kill. Remember, this squid is not very big, so it's often prudent to get the shit out of Dodge when an enemy arrives. Of course, if you flee, you can't eat, right? Well, that's where the spastic limb brigade comes in. After the squid swims away from the scene, the arms keep attacking and injuring the enemy until it dies, or at least is maimed beyond repair. Then, much like an asshole manager who swoops in to take credit after his employees do 99 percent of the work, the squid itself returns to finish the job and feast away.

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4
Snails Are Nature's Chainsaw Massacre

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Unless you make your living growing cucumbers, you probably don't fear snails. They're slightly slimy, very googly-eyed, and quite delicious when cooked the right way. At worst, they resemble giant loads of phlegm that gained sentience and slowly slithered away. That's certainly gross, but it isn't nightmare fuel, right? Well, tell that to this earthworm, which is about to be ground up by the snail's mouth-razors:

That, children, is an amber snail, native to New Zealand (in case you needed another reason to not go there). It will slowly stalk its prey (sometimes in full view if said prey is blind or stupid enough) and suddenly attack, scooping it up and swallowing it in one bite. But it's not so much what it eats but how it eats it. Turns out its mouth is a full-blown medieval torture chamber.

RME-OT
Sadly, the band name "Snail Mouth" just doesn't have the same ring as "Iron Maiden."

See that? That's its mouth. Called a radula, it's completely covered in thin, overlapping, razor-sharp blades, operating like slow-motion chainsaws that peel the skin off their victims one agonizing layer at a time. So in the above video, for the 30 seconds or so that the end of the worm was dangling outside the snail's terrible, terrible mouth, the front end was getting skinned alive so as to make digestion easier.

Barnegat Shellfish
Except for Yosemite Sam, who would come out the other end as a bale of hay.

But don't think it's just the one Down Under snail that secretly hates everything. There's also the rosy wolf snail, a cannibalistic species that was sent to Hawaii in order to eradicate an invasive group of African land snails. They did that and far more, chewing their way through just about anything resembling a snail, ultimately rendering hundreds of species completely extinct. Here's some footage of them doing just that; even without the horror movie music, this scene is just plain terrifying:

And it still doesn't end! Even heavily armored creatures are no match for these slimy demons. Beach-dwelling moon snails have recently been observed sneaking up and pouncing on crabs, drenching them in slime until they can't escape, and using those goddamned chainsaw tongues to drill a hole clear through the victim's shell, scraping and shaving until they can slurp out all the tasty, tasty crab guts available.

And judging by this video, said crabs are alive the whole time, because nature actively enjoys being the worst.

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3
The Arboreal Salamander Is a Tiny Crocodile in Disguise

Steve Jurvetson

D'aww, just look at that thing. Forget that it's slimy and cold-blooded for a second and just stare into those puppy-dog eyes. There's no earthly way it could do any harm at all, right? Even if it has teeth, they're probably harmless little blocks, useful for gnashing teeny bugs and that's about it, right?

Val Johnson via CaliforniaHerps.com
We're gonna take that as a "wrong."

Yep, these adorable little babies are basically closet crocodiles. With its muscular jaws and wicked fangs, an arboreal salamander can easily draw blood from a human being, and would definitely eat us if it were just a little bit bigger. And we mean it; they like them some meat. For the most part, arboreal salamanders feast on insects, worms, and other invertebrates, but they have no issues with making a meal out of their fellow amphibians, particularly the even more adorable and totally-harmless-for-real-this-time slender salamander.

Wikipedia
Totally no poisonous genitals or anything. That we know of.

They're nasty as fuck, too, as you might expect from a sharp-toothed psychopath that eats its own cousins. The arboreal salamander is described as "aggressively territorial," often carrying the battle scars of run-ins with its own kind. If you stick two of them together in a cage, they'll probably try to kill each other, or at least bite each other's tails off, because playtime is for the weak.

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2
Spiny Mice Lose Their Skin and Then Regenerate It Like Wolverine

Lt. Shears

Not every animal has to kill to be horrifying. Case in point: the spiny mouse. Resembling the adorable love child of a gerbil and a hedgehog, spiny mice are timid little desert dwellers who basically lead normal mouse lives: pooping, nibbling, and more pooping. That is, until danger comes along. Then it's time to get nasty. You see, spiny mice have an incredible (and disgusting) mutant power where they will rip apart their own body if attacked or threatened. And not just a little bit. No, they'll tear up to 60 percent of their own fucking flesh if need be.

J. Goheen via Nature.com
Has anyone tried offering them a Snickers or something?

When grabbed by a predator, entire chunks of the mouse's fur, skin, and underlying flesh will simply peel right off while the rest of the mouse scurries away, no worse for wear save for a shitload of gaping, gory holes in its body. The attacker, meanwhile, is left holding a gross hunk of skin that's almost completely inedible due to being covered in sharp spikes and all. This phenomenon is officially known as a "crumble zone," although since pretty much every part of the mouse's body is fair game, "zone" may be the wrong choice of word.

So now that this cute (kind of) little guy has shown up any puny skink or newt that thinks losing their tail makes them hot shit, what's left? Well, how about the ability to completely regenerate any and all lost flesh in a short period of time? Yes, much like Wolverine, the spiny mouse will begin to heal its wounds almost immediately, taking only three days to begin growing back lost flesh and skin. It takes a bit longer to grow back its hair, but even then it's only a month or so. Naturally, the hair is exactly the same color and texture as the old stuff, a secret most middle-aged men would love to get in on. Even if it requires the loss of their flesh first.

Discover Magazine
Brogaine: Now With Complimentary Scalping Knife!

Actually, we're not joking when we say humans may learn something from these mice. This is a mammalian species that can completely regenerate its own cartilage, skin, hair follicles, even sweat glands, without so much as leaving a scar. Studying these guys could well lead to advancement in the quest to develop regenerating human organs. No word yet on whether this would allow us to rip apart our own flesh, too, but hopefully it will, simply for the pranks we could pull on Grandma every Thanksgiving.

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1
Ladybugs Are Poisonous, Fungus-Infested, Carnivorous Death Tanks

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Ladybugs, or ladybirds if you live in the U.K. and have no idea what a bird looks like, are bright, colorful, and oh so pretty. They're probably neck and neck with butterflies on the list of the most socially acceptable insects around. If you call a little girl a ladybug, it's a sign of love and affection -- far less so if you call her, say, a mealworm. Other, smaller bugs, though, are not exactly fans of the polka-dotted beauty. In fact, if you could talk to one and pointed out a particularly pretty ladybug to it, its reaction would likely be along the lines of "OH JESUS FUCK, RUN AWAY." Because there's a good chance the ladybug wants to eat it.

Anderson Mancini
This particular bug is called "Lunch."

Yes, those precious little ladybugs harbor secret contempt toward all life, especially the delicious kind. Strictly carnivorous, their diet is comprised largely of soft, defenseless little bugs, like mites and aphids. Their roly-poly, waddling body is actually a protective dome, allowing them to plow through a ton of cute little farmer ants and freely massacre their herd, even though they're oftentimes much, much larger. So yeah, not only are ladybugs cold-hearted murderers, they're cowardly bullies, too.

Alejandro Erickson
Admit it, you'd do the same thing if you were five times larger than everyone else and armored like a tank.

Hey, would you like to watch? Of course you would. Here are a slew of baby aphids, disappearing one by one down the gullet of this living killdozer, flailing helplessly to the bitter end:

But at least they still got those cute polka dots we can stare at, right? Yeah, about that -- there ain't a damn thing cute about them after all. Those dots are nothing but a warning to other animals that ladybugs taste like shit and are poisonous. This poison can't hurt us, but it can definitely do in any fellow insect that the ladybug deems a threat.

In case the visual sign isn't enough, a ladybug will ooze its own rancid, toxic body fluids into a predator's mouth, something researchers refer to as "reflex blood," and something we refer to as "ewwwww." They'll even use this shit on rival ladybugs, infecting them with a poisonous fungus that kills bugs dead and leaves the victor free to chew away on the victims' children.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Ladybugs are basically Voldemort, is what we're trying to say.

Oh yes, their children. As is often the case with creatures that are evil on the down low, ladybugs are goddamned cannibals. But they don't typically cure their munchies with the corpse of an adult that they just poisoned to death. No, they'll stick to the eggs, thank you very much. They're defenseless, they're chewy, and they're immobile. Perfect prey for the beautiful bullies of the insect world.


You can see more abominations of nature at Jonathan's site, The Insidious Bogleech.


Related Reading: For some animals that are adorable on the outside but terrifying on the inside, read our article about cute animals with nightmarish skeletons. If you're interested in sweet animals that have just recently embarked on a career in violence, this is the article to read. You'll never look at squirrels the same way again. Last, wind down with these bloody rampages by benign critters. Did you know a chicken once tricked six people into drowning to death? Yep. We were shocked too.

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