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
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.
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
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.
#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.
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.
#4. Snails Are Nature's Chainsaw Massacre
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.
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.
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.